Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is when a female’s genitals are purposely cut or altered for nonmedical reasons. FGM is also known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘cutting’, or other names including ‘sunna’, ‘gudniin’, ‘halalays’, ‘tahur’, ‘megrez’, and ‘khitan’.
FGM is usually carried out on girls between the ages of birth and 15 years old, though can be carried out during adolescence or before a young woman marries or during pregnancy. The practice is carried out for a number of cultural, religious, and social reasons, though it isn’t required by any religion and there are no health benefits to FGM.
FGM is a form of child abuse. The child is often forcibly restrained while the painful procedure is performed by someone who has no medical training and uses scalpels, scissors, knives, or razor blades, without giving the child anaesthetic or antiseptic treatment. FGM can cause long-lasting damage to the physical and emotional health of the child.
Up to 6,500 girls are at risk of FGM in the UK each year. More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated.
FGM is against the law, and it is also illegal for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to take their child abroad to undergo FGM; anyone found guilty can face 14 years in prison.
Some key terms to be aware of:
- ‘Cutter’: A cutter is somebody who carries out FGM
- ‘Cutting season’: This refers to the Summer months (July, August, and September), when children are on break from school. Girls might be flown abroad for FGM during this time period.
Signs of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Knowing the signs that female genital mutilation is about to take place or has taken place can help give a voice to children and possibly prevent the abusive procedure from happening.
There are certain factors that may heighten a girl’s risk of FGM, and these include:
- Being between the ages of 5-8 (although FGM has been reported amongst babies and may also affect older children)
- If a girl’s mother, sister or member of the extended family has been subjected to FGM
- If a girl’s family are less well integrated into the local community or are experiencing poverty or disadvantage
- Coming from areas with large populations of FGM practicing communities. FGM is prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and Asia
Many girls at immediate risk of FGM won’t necessarily understand what is going to happen to them, so it is important to be aware of the signs that FGM might happen.
Signs that FGM might happen:
- A special occasion or ceremony is going to take place where a girl ‘becomes a woman’ or is ‘prepared for marriage’
- A relative or someone known as a ‘cutter’ is visiting from abroad
- 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 (professionals may become aware of this if parents are preparing vaccinations or planning absence from school)
- 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
Signs that FGM might have taken place:
- Difficulty or discomfort walking, standing or sitting
- Complaints of pain between legs
- Spending longer than normal in the bathroom or toilet (due to difficulties urinating)
- Appearing quiet, anxious, or depressed
- In school, a girl may have long periods away from classes (e.g. trying to get out of physical education or sporting activities)
- Mentioning that someone did something to them that they are not allowed to talk about
- Reluctant to go to the doctors or have routine medical examinations
- Asking for help, but possibly avoiding being explicit about the problem because they’re scared or embarrassed
- Acting differently after an absence from school or college (e.g. acting withdrawn or Bleeding, discharge, urinary infections, clutching their body
Effects of FGM
FGM can cause serious physical harm, including:
- Severe and/or constant pain
- Pain or difficulty having sex
- Menstrual problems
- Difficulties urinating, or incontinence
- Infections (e.g. tetanus, HIV, Hepatitis B and C, pelvic or urinary infections)
- Bleeding, cysts and abscesses
- Organ damage
- Potentially life-threatening problems during pregnancy and childbirth
- Death from blood loss or infections
Girls and women who have been subjected to FGM may also experience serious emotional and psychological consequences, including:
- Sleep problems
- Self-harm and attempts at suicide
FGM Pilot Campaign being rolled out in Crawley –
The core aim of the campaign is to increase the amount of intelligence around FGM with a particular focus on engaging men and teenagers.
It is hoped that the anonymity that Crimestoppers guarantee will break down some of the barriers to reporting.
Click on the links below to find out more about this campaign
(both links provide the same information in different formats) –
If you know of children you believe to be at risk of FGM, or of people you believe are carrying out FGM, or you have any other information relating to FGM offences, please contact Sussex Police on 101