What is female genital mutilation (FGM)?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is when a girl’s genitals are partly or entirely removed, cut, sewn or damaged.
FGM is also known as female circumcision, cutting or sunna.
This may have already happened to you, or you may be worried this is going to happen.
It is very important that you get support from trusted adult outside of the situation to help you cope with this.
Why is FGM illegal?
Someone you know may arrange for FGM to happen to you because they think this is best for you, or that it is part of your religion or tradition. However, FGM is illegal in the UK and it is also illegal for you to be taken abroad for FGM.
FGM can be carried out by someone with no medical training or equipment and can be very painful and dangerous. It can lead to health and sexual problems including heavy bleeding, infections and problems later on in life when giving birth.
As this often happens to children under 18, this is seen as child abuse. There is no medical reason why FGM should be carried out.
What can I do?
Being affected by FGM, or being in danger of FGM happening to you can make you feel worried, sad, scared or angry, especially if you feel like you’re trying to deal with this all on your own. However, lots of young people find that it can help if they talk to someone.
Some things you can do are:
- If you are in immediate danger of FGM or being taken abroad for FGM you can call the police on 999 or you can think about reporting it to the police.
- Tell an adult you trust – this could include a teacher, a family member, your youth worker, social worker or support worker. Think about talking to someone outside of your family situation who can give you independent advice. It can be difficult to know how to have this conversation, but we have some tips on asking for help.
- With an adult you trust you could develop a safety plan that would help you choose how best to keep yourself safe.
- Talk to your friends. A good friend will listen to you and may help you speak to an adult.
If you are worried about a friend, we have some tips on how you can start the conversation and get them the right help.
This has already happened to me, is there anything I can do now?
If FGM has happened to you recently and you feel unwell or worried that you may develop health problems, it’s important you get help from a doctor or nurse as soon as you can. You may need to call an ambulance on 999 or go to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department are your local hospital if you need urgent help. The NHS provides some specialist services for women and girls who have experienced FGM and more information can be found on the NHS website:
Experiencing FGM can also affect you psychologically; you may be upset and distressed about what has happened. It can help if you talk to someone you trust or an organisation that can help from the list below.
Does FGM happen in the UK?
Many people think FGM is something that happens in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, however it is also happening in the UK. Although it can happen anywhere, in the UK it tends to happen in areas where there are first-generation immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
I think I’m being taken abroad for FGM, what can I do?
The school summer holidays in particular are when many young girls are taken abroad, often to their family’s birth country, to have FGM performed.
If you think there is any possibility that this might be being planned for you, talk to an adult who you trust or call the 24-hour free NSPCC FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are in immediate danger you can call 999, or if you are at the airport you can alert airport security staff.
The FGM statement on the government website highlights the fact that FGM is a serious criminal offence in the UK, with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Who can help me?
You & Co – you can talk to one of our support workers on a one-to-one basis, and we can offer you help and support. We can give you advice on how crime can affect you and how to cope with it, what to do and what to expect if you decide to report a crime to police, and how to move on from being a victim of crime. You can find out about the support available nearest to you on this website.
NSPCC FGM helpline – a 24-hour free helpline for anyone worried about FGM. You can call them on 0800 028 3550.
Forward – provides support, advice and information about accessing specialist health care and counselling for girls and women affected by FGM.
Southhall Black Sisters – highlights and challenges violence against black (Asian and African-Caribbean) women. They offer a range of services.
Orchid Project – this organisation is working towards ending FGM.
Daughters of Eve – works to protect girls and young women at risk from FGM.
The Metropolitan Police Service – this force has a dedicated service for girls at risk of FGM. Call their Child Abuse Investigation Command/Project Azure on 020 71612888.
ChildLine – ChildLine offer 24-hour support for young people, both on the phone and through online chats and message boards, on physical, sexual and emotional abuse and a range of other issues; call 0800 1111.
The Mix – this website provides information and support for 16-25 year olds on a whole range of issues, including rape and sexual assault as well as safe sexual relationships. Get confidential help by telephone, email, text or webchat, for young people under 25; call 0808 808 4994.