Female Genital Mutilation

What Is It?

Female Genital Mutilation is any procedure which involves the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for no medical reason. Many believe that FGM is necessary to ensure acceptance by their community, however this custom is against the law in the UK and many other countries. All types of FGM are illegal in the UK; it is an offence to take a female out of the UK for FGM or for anyone to circumcise women or children for cultural or non-medical reasons here in the UK.

The prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK is difficult to estimate because of the hidden nature of the crime. However, the World Health Organisation estimates that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are at risk of FGM each year. It is practiced in over 28 countries in Africa, some in the Middle East and Asia, but as communities are now migrating, it is becoming a growing concern in Great Britain as we welcome people from these communities. Girls could be taken abroad over the holidays for the procedure or cutters are flown into the local area. We see it as abuse, but female genital mutilation, sometimes known as ‘female genital cutting’ or female circumcision is seen by many in Somali, Egyptian, Sudanese, Nigerian, Sierra Leonean and Middle Eastern communities (but not exclusively these countries) as essential to preserve a girl’s purity and honour. This is not the case; it is a way of socially controlling women and is a category in the government’s domestic abuse definition.

Health Implications

The procedure is often carried out without anesthetic, usually by a woman with no formal medical training using a knife or razor. Short term implications include: severe pain and shock, broken limbs (from being held down), infection, increased risk of blood borne viruses including HIV, Hepatitis B and C, urine retention, injury to adjacent tissues and immediate fatal hemorrhaging. Long term risks include: kidney, urinary and vaginal infection, sexual dysfunction and problems giving birth as well as psychological trauma. Because of its illegality, many women and girls who develop health problems avoid hospitals and doctors, seeking help from ‘healers’ or back-street clinics. An estimated 10% of victims die from short term effects and 25% from recurrent problems.

FGM Indicators – The Warning Signs

What To Do If You Are Worried Someone May Be At Risk?

Advise them to talk to someone they trust, maybe a teacher or a trusted adult at school. We are here to help and protect people. Remember that no-one is allowed to physically or emotionally hurt people and FGM is not allowed in this country. If you are concerned that someone is at risk of FGM ring the police, contact SHLA’s Child Protection Officers or the local safeguarding board, you will find the links below helpful:

SHLA Child Protection Officers

Mrs E West ewest@shlacademy.org

Mr D Sim dsim@shlacademy.org