Female genital mutilation
What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving the removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reason as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO). FGM is a form of physical, emotional abuse and violence against women and girls.
FGM is also known as Female Circumcision or cutting and by other terms such as but not exhaustive:
- Egypt: Thara / Khitan / Khifad
- Ethopia: Megrez / Absum
- Eritrea: Mekhnishab
- Kenya: Kutairi / Kutairi was ichana
- Nigeria: Ibi / Ugwu / Sumna
- Sierra Leone: Sunna / Bondo / Bondo Sonde
- Somalia: Gudiniin / Halalays / Qodiin
- Sudan: Khifad / Tahoor
- CHAD: Bagtne / Gadja
- Guinea-Bissau: Fanadu di Mindjer / Fanadu di Omi
- Gambia: Niaka / Kuyango / Musolula Karoola
FGM is considered child abuse in the UK and it is illegal to perform. Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”) as amended by the Serious Crime Act (HM Government 2015). It is also illegal to take a child abroad for FGM even if legal in that country
FGM is extremely painful and has serious consequences for physical and mental health. It can also result in death. It is a violation of a girl’s bodily integrity and her human rights. The practice has no known health benefit and causes both short-term and long term significant harm to women and girls.
Female Genital Mutilation is not a religious requirement or obligation. FGM is sometimes incorrectly believed to be an Islamic practice. This is not the case and the Islamic Sharia Council, and the Muslim College and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), have condemned the practice of FGM. It has significant long-term physical and emotional consequence for the survivors and it has been estimated that 137,000 girls and women in the UK are affected by this practice, but this is likely to be an underestimation.
Female genital mutilation is classified into four types:
Type 1: Also known as clitoridectomy, this type consists of partial or total removal of the external part of the clitoris and/or its prepuce (clitoral hood).
Type 2: Also known as excision, the external part of clitoris and labia minora are partially or totally removed, with or without excision of the labia majora.
Type 3: It is also known as infibulation or pharaonic type. The procedure consists of narrowing the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or labia majora, with or without removal of the external part of clitoris. The appositioning of the wound edges consists of stitching or holding the cut areas together for a certain period of time (for example, girls’ legs are bound together), to create the covering seal. A small opening is left for urine and menstrual blood to escape.
Type 4: This type consists of all other procedures to the genitalia of women for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
The age at which girls undergo FGM varies enormously according to the community. The procedure may be carried out when the girl is new-born, during childhood or adolescence, just before marriage or during the first pregnancy. However, the majority of cases of FGM are thought to take place between the ages of 5 and 8 and therefore girls within that age bracket are at a higher risk.
Mandatory reporting duty
If you are a registered professional, that is, a health professional, a social worker or a teacher, you have a mandatory duty to report cases of FGM.
The duty applies where the professional either:
- is informed by the girl that an act of FGM has been carried out on her, or
- observes physical signs which appear to show an act of FGM has carried out and has no reason to believe that the act was necessary for the girl’s physical or mental health or for purposes connected with labour or birth.
- The duty applies to professionals working within healthcare or social care, and teachers. It therefore covers:
- Professionals regulated by a body overseen by the Professional Standards Authority (with the exception of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland). This includes doctors, nurses, midwives, and, in England, social workers and teachers,
The duty does not apply where a professional has reason to believe that another individual working in the same profession has previously made a report to the police in connection with the same act of FGM.
Full details of the Mandatory Reporting Duty and Merton’s approach to FGM are included in the attached MSCP FGM Strategy
Care and Prevention
If you are concerned that a child may be at risk of FGM:
- In an emergency contact the Police – 999; or
- Contact Merton Children and Families Hub (formerly known as the MASH), tel: 020 8545 4226
Merton Safeguarding Children Partner (MSCP) has agreed an FGM Strategy. The goals of the strategy are as follows:
- To create community awareness and to engage with local communities on the prevention of FGM. This includes men and older influential women from the community and faith group?
- To obtain a statement from community leaders/ men encouraging FGM to be stopped.
- To ensure that all multi-agency partners are aware of their statutory responsibilities and are fulfilling them.
- To ensure that there are safe pathways to protect women and girls who have had or who are at risk of FGM
- To provide multi-agency guidance for local safeguarding partners and an effective safeguarding response to the issue of FGM.
- To ensure that services are in place to optimise future reproduction and sexual wellbeing, psychological health and better quality of life for survivors of FGM.
We regularly run training on this subject matter – please see below available courses coming up.