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Female Genital Mutilation: Just The Facts

FGM is a violation of human rights and a form of child abuse.

It is usually performed against a girl’s will, and usually involves them being held down to complete the procedure.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and female circumcision are the same thing. FGM is a procedure carried out on girls aged between 0-15 years and usually happens before a girl reaches puberty. The procedure involves the female genitals deliberately being cut or changed.

Why is FGM performed?

FGM is carried out for a number of cultural, religious or social reasons. Some families and cultures believe that FGM is a rite of passage into adulthood or a pre-requisite for marriage. In some cultures, it’s believed that women who have not undergone FGM are unhealthy, unclean or unworthy.

Are there any benefits to FGM?

FGM has no health benefits; in fact it actually cause a number of health problems for girls and women. The long term and immediate health issues that are linked with FGM increase with the type of FGM performed and the severity of the tissue that is damaged.

Immediate health issues that can occur include:

  • Excessive and severe pain
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Infections
  • Shock
  • Death

More long term health issues include:

  • Urinary problems- painful urination or recurrent infections
  • Difficulties and increased pain during periods
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Low self esteem
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Pain during sex
  • Difficulties in child birth

These are just some of the health issues that can occur following FGM. There are many other complicating factors that girls and women experience.

FGM and the Law

FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985; it is child abuse.

In 2003 it became a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to take their child abroad for FGM. Anyone found guilty of the offence faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Parents who arrange for their daughter to be subjected to FGM could find themselves under investigation about their ability to care for their children.

FGM Protection Order (FGMPO) is an injunction that can be applied for to help protect you against FGM if you are at risk. The courts can make a FGMPO forbidding someone from doing certain things, for example booking flights to countries where FGM is still performed.

Anyone can apply for a FGMPO if feel that they are at risk of FGM or have been subject to FGM. A FGMPO can be made against anyone inside or outside the UK who is linked to FGM involvement. You can apply for a FGMPO on the government’s website.

If you or someone you know is at risk of having FGM, contact the police on 999 immediately.

What to do if you are worried about FGM?

Families and the wider community can put a lot of pressure on you to undergo FGM, which can be frightening and isolating. Remember, you are not alone and there are things that you can do to help protect yourself:

  • Speak to a trusted friend or adult such as a teacher, school nurse or GP
  • Speak to the NSPCC FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550 or email them on fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk
  • Speak to Child Line on 08001111
  • If you’re abroad and worried about your safety, you can call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on +44(0)2070081500
  • If you are at immediate risk of harm, you must call 999

If you’re worried about a friend and have noticed that they have changed, seem withdrawn, are not attending school, have to visit the toilet more often or have multiple infections or stomach ache, or you’re worried that they may be at risk of FGM, it’s important to talk to a trusted adult about your concerns.

If you feel your friend is at immediate risk then you must call 999.

What to do if you have had FGM?

Some girls don’t realise what has happened to them until they first try to have sex and it proves painful and frightening. For others, they may feel unwell or are in a lot of pain.

It’s important that you seek medical advice if you are concerned after having FGM. FGM is a distressing and traumatic experience which can affect your mental health, so talking about your experiences can help you process what you have been through. Support can be provided via your school nurse, GP, Childline and the NSPCC.

REMEMBER- FGM is illegal and no girl or women should be forced into it

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your public health nurse.

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