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What is FGM?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It's also known as female circumcision or cutting.
Religious, social or cultural reasons are sometimes given for FGM. However, FGM is child abuse. It's dangerous and a criminal offence.
There are no medical reasons to carry out FGM. It doesn't enhance fertility and it doesn't make childbirth safer. It is used to control female sexuality and can cause severe and long-lasting damage to physical and emotional health.
FGM is illegal
FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985. In 2003 it also became a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to take their child abroad to have female genital mutilation.
Anyone found guilty of the offence faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Reporting requirements - Regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales must report ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18s to the police (Home Office, 2016).
Who is at risk from FGM?
FGM is typically inflicted on girls between 4 and 15 years of age. The majority of known cases are in 28 African countries including Somalia, Sudan, as well as others in the Middle East and Asia.
Long term consequences can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, an increased risk of complications in child birth and a need for further surgery.
Many victims also suffer severe psychological trauma and long term psychological problems.
What to watch out for?
A girl at immediate risk of FGM may not know what's going to happen. But she might talk about or you may become aware of:
- a long holiday abroad or going 'home' to visit family
- relative or cutter visiting from abroad
- a special occasion or ceremony to 'become a woman' or get ready for marriage
- a female relative being cut – a sister, cousin, or an older female relative such as a mother or aunt.
What are the indications that a girl is a victim of FGM?
- Prolonged absence from school and a change in behaviour on return.
- Finding it difficult to sit still and appears to be experiencing discomfort or pain
- Spending a long time at the toilet
- Asking to be excused from PE
- A sudden change in dress.
Worried about FGM?
A member of staff who thinks a girl is at risk of FGM or that FGM has taken place must report this as a child protection issue to the school’s safeguarding lead and to the police on 101.
Members of the public should report this to the police on 101