Last Updated on 9th March 2021

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) continues to pose a serious threat to the well-being of women and young girls in the UK and world. Our team of in-house experts have prepared the following article to ensure parents, carers and safeguarding professionals are equipped with the essential knowledge and skills to protect and safeguard women and girls from FGM. 

The FGM Enhanced Dataset was opened in 2015 and collects information from NHS Trusts and GP practices regarding when they come in contact with victims of FGM. From April 2015 and March 2020, this data set recorded 24,420 individual cases. 

International reports indicate that during lockdowns women and girls in source countries, such as in East and West Africa, are experiencing higher levels of cutting, potentially hidden by the impact of COVID related restrictions.  This may be exacerbated by a reduction in the opportunity to be in contact with health services.

Hear from Mbalu Mansaray, a survivor of FGM, about the long term impacts of the practice.

Below is an excerpt from the Female Genital Mutilation CPD course from the Safer Schools App. To learn more about the App and enquire about access, click here.

What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation or ‘FGM’ is a form of physical abuse. It is also a form of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

FGM is illegal in the United Kingdom. It is also illegal for UK nationals or permanent residents to carry out the practice abroad or travel with a child for this purpose.

FGM has long been challenged within communities impacted by the practice and following the introduction of enhanced legislation and mandatory reporting, statutory authorities now pay more attention to the issue.

UNICEF report that approx. 200 million girls and women alive today, in 30 countries, have experienced some form of FGM.

The World Health Organisation, describes four types of FGM:

  • Type 1: Usually refers to the partial or complete removal of the clitoris and/or clitoral hood (the sensitive/erectile part of the female genitals).

  • Type 2: Excision is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the (inner) labia minora, with or without excision of the (outer) labia majora.

  • Type 3 (most severe): (Infibulation) involves the removal of all or part of the inner and outer labia and usually the clitoris, and the fusion of the wound. A small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual blood, and the wound may be opened for intercourse and childbirth.

  • Type 4: Refers to miscellaneous procedures such as symbolic piercing of the clitoris or labia, burning of the clitoris, and cutting into the vagina to widen it.


It is generally understood that the risks to health and life from these practices increase with the severity of the procedure – type 1 and 2 are thought to be most common.

The Challenges

Safeguarding professionals need to understand the issue and how they can protect young people from harm. There is debate around the prevalence of the practice within the UK, and communities worldwide.

For professionals, the focus should be placed on educating and safeguarding young people. You should avoid insensitive interventions or poorly informed suspicions – this can risk stigmatising communities where FGM is practiced.

What you can do

  • Educate yourself further on the issue and understand what you need to know in your professional capacity – this could be from wider reading or access to relevant training.

  • You should always be familiar with the reporting pathways within your own school or organisation. This includes how to escalate cases where there are inadequate responses or barriers to reporting.

  • If you are a Safer School, you can access our CPD accredited FGM awareness course for professionals and school staff. Click here to find out if you are a Safer School. Completing this course will help you build your understanding. We would also encourage you to look at the further support section.

  • We also deliver face to face training courses on FGM and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Awareness. To learn more visit our Training page.

Support

If a child or young person is in immediate danger of FGM you should contact 999 (emergency number)

If you are worried about a young person is at risk or is a victim of FGM you can contact the NSPCC FGM Helpline:

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