Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is mostly carried out on young girls sometimes between infancy and age 15 years.

It is illegal to practice FGM in the UK and is a form of child abuse and sexual violence. There aren’t any health benefits associated with FGM and it often results in long term consequences.

Signs that a child may be at risk

Suspicions may arise in a number of ways that a child is being prepared for FGM to take place abroad including:

  • A mother, sibling or close family member who has had the procedure herself.
  • Knowing that the family belongs to a community in which FGM is practised. UK communities that are most at risk of FGM include Kenyans, Somalis, Sudanese, Sierra Leoneans, Egyptians, Nigerians and Eritreans. However women from non-African communities that are at risk of FGM include Yemeni, Kurdish, Indonesian and Pakistani women.
  • Knowing that the family 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 or 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.

Indicators that FGM may have taken place

Health practitioners in GP surgeries, sexual health clinics, schools and maternity services are the most likely to encounter a girl or woman who has been subjected to FGM.

Other Indicators that FGM may already have occurred include:

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

If you have concerns that a girl or young woman may be taken overseas for FGM then you should call children's social care and/or the police immediately

Guidance on how to respond to FGM in children and younger adults is included in the DSCB Safeguarding Procedures.

Support should also be offered to a woman who has experienced FGM. Further guidance is available in the DASB procedures.