What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

FGM is the act of deliberately altering or removing a female's genitals for non-medical reasons. A common term for this is "cutting" or "female circumcision".

Is FGM illegal?


FGM is a criminal offence in the UK. For this reason, girls are often brought to other parts of the world for the procedure.

While FGM can be conducted when a female is a newborn, in childhood or adolescence, newly married or even pregnant, it is common for young girls to be taken abroad for the procedure in the summer months during school holidays.

Is FGM safe?


There is no medical basis on which to perform FGM. It is carried out as a means of regulating young women's sexuality, and can cause severe physical and psychological damage. Because of its illegality, the procedure is often carried out in an extremely dangerous way, by people with no medical training using knives scalpels, scissors, glass or razor blades. Anaesthetic and antiseptic treatments are very rarely used and the victims are usually forcibly restrained.

How do I know if someone is at risk of FGM?

These are the signs to look out for.

  • A relative or someone known as a 'cutter' visiting from abroad.
  • A special occasion or ceremony takes place where a girl 'becomes a woman' or is 'prepared for marriage'.
  • A female relative, like a mother, sister or aunt has undergone FGM.
  • A family arranges a long holiday overseas or visits a family abroad during the summer holidays.
  • A girl has an unexpected or long absence from school.
  • A girl struggles to keep up in school.
  • A girl runs away – or plans to run away - from home.
How do I know if someone has already undergone FGM?

These are the signs to look out for.

  • Having difficulty walking, standing or sitting.
  • Spending longer in the bathroom or toilet.
  • Appearing quiet, anxious or depressed.
  • Acting differently after an absence from school or college.
  • Reluctance to go to the doctors or have routine medical examinations.
  • Asking for help – though they might not be explicit about the problem because they're scared or embarrassed.
What are the effects of FGM?

There are no benefits of FGM; but there are severe risks.

Although it is believed by the communities and individuals who conduct FGM that it will benefit girls in some way, for example by preparing for marriage or childbirth, there is no benefit to conducting FGM. There are communities who carry out the practice for cultural, religious, or social reasons, however, FGM is not required in any religion and should not be viewed as being acceptable due to reasons of culture or religion.

While FGM does not have any benefits, there are severe risks and consequences of the procedure. These include:

  • severe and/or constant pain
  • infections, such as tetanus, HIV and hepatitis B and C
  • pain or difficulty having sex
  • infertility
  • bleeding, cysts and abscesses
  • difficulties urinating or incontinence
  • organ damage
  • problems during pregnancy and childbirth, which can be life-threatening for the mother and baby
  • mental health problems, such as depression, flashbacks and self-harm
  • death from blood loss or infections.

Source: NSPCC

The content of this information page is based on the NSPCC's guidance on FGM, which can be accessed here: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/female-genital-mutilation-fgm/

Reporting Concerns - Child

More info

Reporting Concerns - Adult

More info