Female genital mutilation (FGM) also known as female circumcision or cutting, is a collective term for procedures which include the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs, or injury to the female genital organs, for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.
FGM is medically unnecessary, is extremely painful, and has serious health consequences, both at the time of the procedure, and in later life. It can also be psychologically damaging.
A number of girls die as a direct result of the procedure, from blood loss or infection. In the longer term, women who have undergone some form of FGM are twice as likely to die in childbirth, and four times more likely to give birth to a still born child.
The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it
- illegal to practice FGM in the UK
- illegal to assist a girl to mutilate her own genitalia
- illegal to take girls who are British Nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM whether or not it is lawful in that country;
- illegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad;
An offence under this act has a maximum penalty of up to 14 years in prison and/or a fine.
The 2003 Act has been amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015, which adds new sections 3A, 4A, 5A, 5B and 5C. These new provisions –
- Introduce mandatory notification - a health care professional or teacher must make a “FGM Notification” to the police if, in the course of their duties, they discover that an act of FGM appears to have been carried out on a girl under 18.
- Create an offence of failing to protect a girl under the age of 16 from FGM (the offence is committed by a person who has parental responsibility for her or has assumed responsibility for her care);
- Introduce Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders, which may include such provisions, restrictions or requirements as the court considers appropriate in order to protect a girl from FGM; or to protect a girl after FGM has been carried out; and
- Give the victims of FGM a right of anonymity.
Female genital mutilation is physical abuse, and whilst it is perceived by parents not to be an act of hate, it is harmful, it is child abuse and it is unlawful. It has long lasting significant implications for those who have the procedure performed on them.
Five signs to look out for (particularly for organisations such as health and education)
1. The family belongs to a community which practices FGM
2. The family are making plans to go on holiday / requested extended leave from school
3. The child talks about a forthcoming special celebration
4. The child / woman may have difficulty walking or sitting
5. Their own mother or other siblings have had FGM
Call the Police on 101 if you have information about FGM or believe a child may be at risk. In an emergency, dial 999. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the NSPCC's FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550