Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting, is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons". It is considered by many to be an extreme form of gender based violence as it has no medical necessity. It has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and since 2003 anybody taking a child to be "cut" outside the UK faces up to 14 years in prison. 

The late Alison Gingell from Coventry Council talks here of the need to spread awareness of the issues.

Key facts

  • 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.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
  • It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years.
  • FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
  • The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. Increasingly, however, FGM is being performed by health care providers.
  • Around the globe, 130 million girls and women have undergone FGM.
  • In Africa 101 million girls aged 10 and over have been subjected to FGM.
  • Every year a further 3 million girls are at risk of FGM in Africa alone

FGM prevalence (UNICEF, 2013)According to a 2013 UNICEF report based on surveys completed by select countries, FGM is known to be prevalent in 27 African countries, Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan, where 125 million women and girls have undergone FGM.

The UNICEF report notes that FGM is found in countries beyond the 29 countries it covered, and the total worldwide number is unknown. Other reports claim the prevalence of FGM in countries not discussed by the 2013 UNICEF report. The practice occurs in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Earlier reports claimed the prevalence of FGM in Israel among the Negev Bedouin, which by 2009 has virtually disappeared.

Consequences of FGM

Depending on the degree of mutilation, FGM can have a number of short-term health implications:

  • severe pain and shock
  • infection
  • urine retention
  • injury to adjacent tissues
  • immediate fatal haemorrhaging

Long-term effects include:

  • extensive damage of the external reproductive system
  • uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections
  • cysts and neuromas
  • increased risk of vesico vaginal fistula
  • complications in pregnancy and child birth
  • psychological damage
  • sexual dysfunction
  • difficulties in menstruation

Information, support and advice

Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance on Female Genital Mutilation- Updated July 220

Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee Report on FGM (2016)

Oxford Against Cutting

OAC is committed to working to help prevent female genital mutilation of girls and women living in Oxfordshire.

Web: www.oxfordagainstcutting.org

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

FORWARD works through partnerships in the UK, Europe and Africa to transform lives, tackling discriminatory practices that affect the dignity and wellbeing of girls and women. Ther focus is on female genitali mutilation (FGM), child marriage and obstetric fistula.

Web: forwarduk.org.uk

Rights of Women

Rights of Women works to attain justice and equality by informing, educating and empowering women on their legal rights.

Web: rightsofwomen.org.uk


Female genital mutilation: resource pack

This resource was developed in response to requests for clearer direction from central government about the safeguarding responsibilities of local authorities. It is designed to highlight examples from areas where effective practice has been identified and to emphasise what works in protecting survivors and those at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The London Safeguarding Children Board have produced a useful FGM resource pack

The Medicalisation of FGM- Report from 28 Too Many