Female genital mutilation

In the UK, it is estimated that up to 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation. Across government work is taking place top tackle this cruel and brutal practice.

Find out about the illegal practise of female genital mutilation (FGM) and advice on what to do if you are worried that you or someone you know is at risk.

The facts about female genital mutilation

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • FGM is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
  • An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. It is mostly carried out on young girls sometimes between infancy and age 15 years.
  • In Africa an estimated 92 million girls from 10 years of age and above have undergone FGM.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
  • It is illegal to practice FGM in the UK.

The law

The Female Genital Mutilation Act was introduced in 2003 and came into effect in March 2004. The act:

  • makes it illegal to practice FGM in the UK
  • makes it illegal to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM whether or not it is lawful in that country
  • makes it iilegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad
  • has a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and, or,  a fine

Multi-agency guidelines

The government has launched new guidelines to support front-line professionals such as teachers, health professional, police officers and social workers to prevent and tackle FGM.

The guidelines:

  • explains the complex issues around female genital mutilation
  • identify the signs that girls and women may be at risk or who are dealing with the consequences of FGM
  • set out the actions that professionals should take, often in conjunction with other agencies, to protect girls and women and offer them the support they need

What are the signs that a may be at risk of FGM?

Suspicions may arise in a number of ways that a child is being prepared for FGM to take place abroad. These include knowing that the family belongs to a community in which FGM is practised and is making preparations for the child to take a holiday, arranging vaccinations or planning absence from school. The child may also talk about a 'special procedure/ceremony' that is going to take place.

Girls are at particular risk of FGM during summer holidays. This is the time when families may take their children abroad for the procedure. Many girls may not be aware that they may be at risk of undergoing FGM.

UK communities that are most at risk of FGM include kenyans, Somalis, Sudanese, Sierra Leoneans, Egytians, Nigerians and Eritireans. However women from non-African communities that are at risk of FGM include Yemeni, Kurdish, Indonesian and Pakistani women.

If you have concerns that a girl or young women may be taken overseas for FGM then please contact the FCO on 0207 008 1500 or email fgm@fco.gov.uk

You should also call:

  • Your local children's services or local dafeguarding children's board
  • Your local police child protection unit
  • The NSPCC on 0808 800 5000
  • FORWARD on 020 8960 4000

Indicators that FGM may have taken place

Indicators that FGM may already have occurred include prolonged absence from school, noticeable behaviour change on return and long periods away from classes or other normal activities, possibly with bladder or menstrual problems. Some teachers have described how children find it dificult to sit still and look uncomfortable or may complain of pain between their legs.

You must report your concerns to the police and to children's services.

We recommend you also call FORWARD as they provide support, counselling and safe space for girls and women to talk about their experiences. They can also educates and work with families to prevent FGM happening to any other girls in the family. There are also specialist health services available to women who have undergone FGM.  

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Telephone: 020 7008 1500


Metropolitan Police - Child Abuse Investigation Command/Project Azure                                          

Telephone: 020 71612888             

Project Azure

Foundation for Women's Health Research & Development (FORWARD)                                          

Telephone: 020 89604000