Fact Sheet Fact Sheet

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

FGM is illegal in the UK. This fact sheet explains key points, and clinicians' obligations.

Last updated

on 12.06.2018

  1. FGM is mutilation of the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris
  2. FGM is child abuse and a form of violence against women and girls
  3. There is now mandatory reporting to the Police of FGM in under 18s

This fact sheet is provides only a brief overview, based on the Government document: Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance on Female Genital Mutilation.

What is FGM?

FGM is a procedure where the female genital organs are injured or changed and there is no medical reason for this.

There are 4 different types classified by the WHO:

  • Type 1 – Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris);
  • Type 2 – Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are the ‘lips’ that surround the vagina);
  • Type 3 – Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris; and
  • Type 4 – Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterising the genital area.

FGM is illegal in England and Wales. In addition, there is a mandatory reporting duty which requires professionals to report known cases of FGM in under 18s to the police.

Who is affected?

The attached map shows the prevalence of FGM in 30 countries. In addition, women who have migrated to England and Wales are affected. Approximately:

  • 103,000 women aged 15-49
  • 24,000 women aged 50 and over
  • 10,000 girls aged under 15 (MacFarlane & Dorkenoo 2015)

In addition, one study estimated 60,000 girls aged 0-14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM, putting them at risk.

The Government lists the following risk factors, which are not exhaustive:

  • a female child is born to a woman who has undergone FGM;
  • a female child has an older sibling or cousin who has undergone FGM;
  • a female child’s father comes from a community known to practise FGM;
  • the family indicate that there are strong levels of influence held by elders and/or elders are involved in bringing up female children;
  • a woman/family believe FGM is integral to cultural or religious identity;
  • a girl/family has limited level of integration within UK community;
  • parents have limited access to information about FGM and do not know about the harmful effects of FGM or UK law;
  • a girl confides to a professional that she is to have a ‘special procedure’ or to attend a special occasion to ‘become a woman’;
  • a girl talks about a long holiday to her country of origin or another country where the practice is prevalent;
  • parents state that they or a relative will take the girl out of the country for a prolonged period;
  • a parent or family member expresses concern that FGM may be carried out on the girl;
  • a family is not engaging with professionals (health, education or other);
  • a family is already known to social care in relation to other safeguarding issues;
  • a girl requests help from a teacher or another adult because she is aware or suspects that she is at immediate risk of FGM;
  • a girl talks about FGM in conversation, for example, a girl may tell other children about it – it is important to take into account the context of the discussion;
  • a girl from a practising community is withdrawn from Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education or its equivalent;
  • a girl is unexpectedly absent from school;
  • sections are missing from a girl’s Red book; and/or
  • a girl has attended a travel clinic or equivalent for vaccinations / anti-malarials

FGM can have immediate and long-term health consequences for women, including physical and mental health impacts. It also can cause difficulties and complications in pregnancy and birth, as well as ongoing pain.

Referral to a specialist clinic can explore surgical options, as needed.

Further information

The prevalence map focuses only on Africa and part of the Middle East. However, UNFPA (link to webpage below) lists the following as countries where FGM is practiced: