Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation
of young girls is child abuse.

What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM,

is all procedures where part or
all of the external female genitalia

are removed for non-medical reasons.

Other terms include female circumcision,
cutting, Gudnin, Tahur.

It's a practice
occurs in specific populations.

It can be performed at any stage
of a woman's life,

from infancy right up until adulthood.

It's most commonly performed
before puberty,

perhaps between about the ages
of five and eight.

It's really a major infringement
of women's human rights.

FGM violates human rights conventions

that protect women and children
from cruelty and violence.

FGM is illegal.

FGM is against the law in the UK
and has been so since 1985.

If someone is found guilty
of carrying out FGM in the UK

or arranging for a girl
to go abroad for FGM,

then they face a maximum prison sentence
of 14 years

and a substantial fine if found guilty.

Who is at risk of FGM?

There are increasing numbers of women
from FGM-practising communities

living in the UK.

There are two really separate
and important issues here.

Firstly, identifying women
that have undergone FGM

so that we can offer them
appropriate health care.

But second to that
is the really important issue

of young girls being at risk of FGM.

We know that the single most relevant
fact that puts a girl at risk of FGM

is to be born into a community
that practises FGM.

What that means is that it's really
important for NHS staff,

such as doctors, midwives and nurses,
to be aware of this,

but also for the general public,

for people who may be working
with children, such as teachers.

The most likely time that a young girl
is taken aboard for FGM

would be during
the long school summer holiday.

So it's important that if there is
any suspicion that that might happen

that the right people are informed.

Things that might lead you
to suspect that

would be if the child says she is
going home for something special,

some party or event
after which she may be grown-up.

Then you can ring the police.
You can ring your local social services.

What are the consequences of FGM?

The short-term effects of FGM, if you
imagine these procedures are done,

in general, not by medical personnel.

They're done under unsterile
and unsanitary conditions.

They're done without any anaesthetic
or analgesia on a small child.

The immediate consequences are
obviously damage to the genital organs,

removal of the genital organs,
damage to surrounding organs.

And this can lead to haemorrhage
and to infection.

The other effects
which are more difficult to measure

are it's clear that there are
great psychological effects

if you think about
the trauma of such a procedure.

So long-lasting psychological damage
to women that have undergone this.

Also increasingly we realise that
it would cause psychosexual problems.

If you have your clitoris removed,
so you have no sensation

and the vagina is narrow
and sex is painful,

then psychosexual problems
are also common.

Global efforts to stop FGM
are increasing.

Because the instruments are not sterile,
you also have an increased risk

of blood-borne infections
such as hepatitis B and HIV.

Girls and women are left with urinary
problems, such as incontinence,

unable to control urine,
or recurrent urinary tract infections.

It increases the risk of infertility.

If you do manage to become pregnant,
you have an increased risk

of haemorrhage during childbirth.

There's also an increased risk
that the baby may die during labour

or shortly after birth.

What happens during pregnancy?

If a woman is pregnant and has had FGM,

then she will need
an assessment of the vagina

to see whether the vagina is too narrow
for her to give birth naturally.

And if the vagina is too narrow,

then she will require a procedure
called a deinfibulation procedure.

It is illegal to reinfibulate a woman
who has had FGM following the birth.

Sometimes that's called a reversal of
FGM. It's not a true reversal.

You can't put back the tissue,

but it opens the vagina
to make delivery of the baby easier.

What help and support is available?

There are specialist clinics
throughout the UK

that see women who have had FGM.

It's really important
that women have information

on how to access those services.

For more information about FGM
and where to go for advice or help,

please visit www.nhs.uk/fgm

If you are worried that someone else
may be at risk of, or affected by FGM,

contact the Child Protection Helpline
on 0808 800 5000.

If you have been affected by FGM,

or are worried that you may be at risk
from FGM,

contact the Metropolitan Police
Child Abuse Investigation Command

Project Azure helpline on 0207 161 2888.

FGM information, help and support

NSPCC Helpline
0808 800 5000

Metropolitan Police Project Azure
helpline 020 7161 2888

Female Genital Mutilation of young girls
is child abuse.