What is Female Genital Mutilation? (FGM)
Under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 it is an offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for anyone (regardless of their nationality and residence status) to:
perform FGM in the UK
assist the carrying out of FGM in the UK
assist a girl to carry out FGM on herself in the UK
assist from the UK a non-UK person to carry out FGM outside the UK on a UK national or permanent UK resident. The age at which girls undergo FGM varies enormously according to the community. The procedure may be carried out when the girl is new born, during childhood or adolescence, just before marriage or during the first pregnancy. However, the majority of cases of FGM are thought to take place between the ages of 5 and 8 and therefore girls within that age bracket are at a higher risk. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 girls aged under 15 who have migrated to England and Wales are likely to have undergone FGM.
Suspicions may arise in a number of ways that a child is being prepared for FGM to take place abroad. These include knowing both that the family belongs to a community in which FGM is practiced and is making preparations for the child to take a holiday, arranging vaccinations or planning absence from school. The child may also talk about a special procedure/ceremony that is going to take place.
Usually it is a girl’s parents or her extended family who are responsible for arranging FGM. Some of the reasons given for the continued practice of FGM include: protecting family honour, preserving tradition, ensuring a woman’s chastity, cleanliness and as a preparation for marriage. FGM is not linked to a particular culture or religion, but is widely practiced in some regions of the world.
The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 was amended by sections 70-75, Serious Crime Act in 2015 which placed a duty on all agencies to report existing or suspected cases.
What are the signs that a girl may be at risk of FGM or has undergone FGM?
Indicators that FGM may already have occurred include prolonged absence from school or other activities with noticeable behaviour change on return, possibly with bladder or menstrual problems. They may talk of something somebody did to them that they are not allowed to talk about. If you have concerns someone may be at risk of or have had FGM done to them, you must report concerns.
FGM offers no health benefits whatsoever and it is illegal.
The National FGM Centre good referral guide; this document outlines the type of information required to support contacts/referrals