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, cutting or sunna. Religious, social or cultural reasons are sometimes given for FGM. However, FGM is dangerous and a criminal offence.
The term FGM covers all harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes. There are 4 types – all are illegal and have serious health risks.
Excision of the clitoris prepuce (“Sunna-circumcision”) and of the clitoris or parts thereof.
Excision of the clitoris prepuce, the clitoris and the inner lips or parts thereof. Type 1 and 2 are the most common types of FGM
Excision of part of or all of the external genitals (“infibulation”, also referred to as “Pharaonic Circumcision”).
Pricking, piercing, cutting or stretching of the clitoris or the labia, also burning or scarring the genitals as well as ripping of the vaginal opening or the introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina in order to tighten it.
Even partial removal or ‘nipping’ can risk serious health problems for girls and women.
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.
It 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.
FGM is usually performed by someone with no medical training. Girls are given no anaesthetic, no antiseptic treatment and are often forcibly restrained. The cutting is made using instruments such as a knife, pair of scissors, scalpel, glass or razor blade
It can cause:
- Severe pain
- Infection such as tetanus, HIV and hepatitis B and C
- Organ damage
- Blood loss and infections can cause death in some cases.
Girls and women who have had FGM may have problems that continue through adulthood, including difficulties urinating, incontinence, frequent infections and pain when having sex. FGM can also cause problems during labour and childbirth, which can be life-threatening for mother and baby.
FGM is most commonly carried out when a girl is 5-8 years old. However it can happen at any age before a girl or woman is married or pregnant. Some girls are babies when FGM is carried out.
In the UK, girls from the Somali, Kenyan, Sudanese, Sierra Leonean, Egyptian, Nigerian, Eritrean, Yemeni, Kurdish and Indonesian communities are most at risk of FGM.
It is an offence to:
- perform FGM (including taking a child abroad for FGM)
- help a girl perform FGM on herself in or outside the UK
- help anyone perform FGM in the UK
- help anyone perform FGM outside the UK on a UK national or resident
- fail to protect a girl for whom you are responsible from FGM
Anyone who performs FGM can face up to 14 years in prison. Anyone found guilty of failing to protect a girl from FGM can face up to seven years in prison.
A girl or woman may:
- Have difficulty walking, sitting or standing
- Spend longer than normal in the bathroom or toilet
- Have unusual behaviour after an absence from school or college
- Be particularly reluctant to undergo normal medical examinations
- Ask for help, but may not be explicit about the problem due to embarrassment or fear.
The summer holidays are when many young girls are taken abroad, often to their family’s birth country, to have FGM performed. The FGM statement, also known as the FGM health passport, highlights the fact that FGM is a serious criminal offence in the UK.
If you’re worried about FGM, print out this statement, take it abroad with you and show it to your family. Keep the declaration in your passport, purse or bag, and carry it with you all the time.
There are also versions of the statement in other languages on the GOV.UK website.
The Department of Health has published leaflets for patients who want to know more about FGM. These are available in the following languages:
More about FGM – English version (PDF, 117kb)
Mwy o wybodaeth am FGM – Welsh version (PDF, 164kb)
ስለ ኤፍ ጂ ኤም ተጨማሪ መረጃ – Amharic version (PDF, 472kb)
مزيد من المعلومات حول ختان الإناث – Arabic version (PDF, 228kb)
FGM اطلاعات بیشتر درباره – Farsi version (PDF, 207kb)
Renseignements complémentaires sur les MGF – French version (PDF, 167kb)
Informasi selengkapnya tentang FGM – Indonesian version (PDF, 160kb)
FGM زانیاری زیاتر دەربارەی – Kurdish Sorani version (PDF, 245kb)
Macluumaad dheeraad ah ee ku saabsan FGM – Somali version (PDF, 170kb)
Habari zaidi kuhusu ukeketaji wa wanawake – Swahili version (PDF, 160kb)
ብዛዕባ ኤፍ ጂ ኤም ተወሳኺ ሓበሬታ – Tigrinya version (PDF, 491kb)
ایف جی ایم کے بارے میں مزید معلومات – Urdu version (PDF, 235kb)