What is Female Genital Mutilation?
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of violence against women and girls and it is considered child abuse and is illegal. It comprises of all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It may be carried out at any time in a girl’s life, from baby to womanhood, but the most common age for those FGM cases where the age is known is 5 to 9 years old. FGM can be seen as a pathway to womanhood and can also be a condition of marriage. Some communities believe that if a girl has not had it done she is deemed unhealthy, unclean, or unworthy. Parents can have very strong beliefs, genuinely thinking they are doing the right thing for their daughter, and in communities where all females have the procedure it can seem normal, then making it very difficult for girls to challenge this tradition.
In the UK, anyone found guilty of an FGM offence or of helping somebody commit one, faces up to 14 years in prison, a fine, or both - regardless of where in the world the FGM takes place. Anyone found guilty of failing to protect a girl under the age of 16 from risk of FGM faces up to 7 years in prison, a fine, or both.
Your duty to report
It is mandatory to report cases of "known" FGM to the Police. The duty applies to all regulated professionals working within health or social care, and teachers. For more information, see the NHS flowchart for the mandatory reporting process of FGM.
...may be at risk of FGM:
knowing both that the family of a girl belongs to a community in which FGM is practised and is making preparations for the child to take a holiday, arranging vaccinations or planning absence from school
a child may also talk about being taken “home” for a special visit to become a woman or a special procedure/ceremony that is going to take place
a child may say an older female relative is coming especially to see her
...might have undergone FGM:
prolonged absence from school or other activities with noticeable behaviour change on return. They may become withdrawn and possibly with bladder or menstrual problems
find it difficult to stand or sit still and look uncomfortable, or may complain about pain between their legs
talk of something somebody did to them that they are not allowed to talk about
spend longer in the toilet than usual; because of bleeding and/or infection.
have frequent vaginal, urinal, or pelvic infections
have blood born infections, including Hepatitis B & C, and HIV
be reluctant to undergo any medical examinations
may ask for help, but not be explicit about the problem due to fear or embarrassment
Possible signs someone...
Support and Resources
If a child is at immediate risk of significant harm, please dial 999.
Drop-in confidential counselling and advice as well as group meetings for women in Lambeth.
This statement, available in multiple languages, opposes FGM and makes clear that it is a serious criminal offence in the UK.
Please call or email and follow up with a Multi-agency Referral Form.
Use the Lambeth Multi-agency Guidance for Safeguarding against FGM to aid decision-making.
Supporting schools to understand their role in safeguarding girls, engaging parents and teaching about FGM. (June 2019)
The Gaia Centre offers a range of services to those in Lambeth experiencing gender-based violence, including FGM.
This resource pack supports professionals to fulfill their FGM safeguarding responsibilities.
To aid decision-making, use the London Safeguarding Girls at risk of FGM guidance.