Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
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What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” (World Health Organisation, Fact sheet N°241, 2010). Female Genital mutilation is also sometimes known as ‘cutting’ or ‘female circumcision’.
What are the health consequences of FGM?
FGM has no health benefits and involves damaging healthy female genital tissue and can cause short-term and long-term physical and psychological damage. It can cause severe bleeding and problems with urinating and menstruating. It also increases risks of infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and can also cause complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
Why does FGM happen?
The origin of FGM is complex and it has not been clearly established. However, it is known that FGM predates both Christianity and Islam and it is not condoned by any religion.
There are many different reasons why FGM is continued and these can be categorised under five main headings:
FGM is carried out as a means to control women’s sexuality; to ensure chastity. It is thought to ensure virginity before and fidelity after marriage and it is believed to increase male sexual pleasure. It is also mistakenly believed by some to enhance fertility after marriage.
Sociological and cultural reasons
FGM is seen as part of initiation into womanhood and as an intrinsic part of a community’s cultural heritage and tradition. It provides the girl with a sense of belonging in the community and is seen as intrinsically linked to a family’s honour and standing in the community.
Hygiene and aesthetic reasons
In some communities, the female genitalia are considered to be dirty and/or ugly. FGM is ostensibly carried out to promote both cleanliness and aesthetic appeal.
Although FGM is not sanctioned by any major religion, religion is often used to justify its usage.
In many communities, FGM is necessary for marriage. Where women are financially dependent on men, economics can be a determining factor. FGM may also be a major income source for practitioners.
Is FGM illegal?
Yes, FGM is illegal in the UK. The Female Genital Mutilation Act was introduced in 2003 and came into force in 2004. The Act replaced the earlier Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act (1985) and applied in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003):
- 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 illegal 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.
The penalty for FGM is up to 14 years imprisonment and/or a fine on conviction on Indictment; and up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine (not exceeding the statutory maximum) on summary conviction.
Concerns have been raised since the legislation was enacted the fact that the Act prevents British Citizens and permanent residents from assisting or carrying out FGM abroad but cannot be used against people who live in this country.
The Government has announced proposals to close this extraterritorial loophole in the Serious Crime Bill so that habitual residents are covered and they have introduced proposals for a civil protection order. The Serious Crime Bill is currently going through parliament. Further details can be found on the Parliament website.
If you are in immediate risk call 999 or 112 (from a mobile) for the Police.
Project Azure, Metropolitan Police
Reporting FGM to the police
Tel: 020 7161 2888
NSPCC Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) helpline
Tel: 0800 028 3550
Mile End Hospital
Women’s & Young People’s Services
Sylvia Pankhurst Health Centre, Mile End Hospital, Bancroft Rd. London, E1 4DG
Tel: 020 7377 7898 or 020 7377 7870
Open: Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm
Women’s Health and Family Service
Address: The Brady Centre,192-196 Hanbury Street, London E1 5HU
Tel: 020 7377 8725
Website: Womens Health and Family Service
Ocean’s Somali Community Association (OSCA)
Community organisation who helps raise awareness of FGM and provide information to those from the Somali community
Concordia Community Enterprise Centre
Railway Arches 420 - 421
Burdett Road, London E3 4AA
Tel: 020 7987 5833 or 020 7537 7254
FORWARD – FGM Specialists
Tel: 020 89604000
Daughters of Eve – FGM Specialists
Mobile: 07983 030 488 or 07961797173
E-mail: (via website)
IKWRO (Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation)
Support around HBV and Forced Marriage
Tel: 0207 920 6460
E-mail: (via website)
Statement opposing female genital mutilation and Information produced by the Home Office for those at risk of FGM.
Website: Health Passports.