What is female genital mutilation (FGM)?
FGM is a type of traditional harmful practice which aims to remove, injure or change a girl or woman’s genital organs (clitoris, labia and vagina). It is sometimes called ‘cutting’, ‘female circumcision’ or ‘sunna’.
There are no health benefits to FGM. In fact, FGM can cause serious lifelong harm to women, even death. The signs of FGM are often hidden and it can be very difficult to spot.
What are the physical signs of FGM to look out for?
- Pain, shock, bleeding and injury are common immediately after FGM
- Ongoing vaginal and pelvic infections
- Abnormal periods
- Long-term urine infections
- Being particularly reluctant to undergo normal medical examinations
What are the emotional signs of FGM?
- Psychological damage
- Depression, anxiety and self-harm
- Low sex-drive
- Flashbacks during pregnancy and childbirth
What are the signs that someone might be at risk?
Groups of women (especially with girls under the age of 15) travelling to certain foreign countries (such as Egypt and Somalia) may be a cause for concern. Every year, girls are taken abroad so that FGM can be carried out in the summer holidays. This gives them time to ‘heal’ before they return to school.
If you know that the family belongs to a community in which FGM is practised, if you learn that a family is preparing to take a girl on holiday, such as arranging vaccinations or planning absence from school or the girl says a special procedure/ceremony is going to take place, then you might be concerned that FGM is going to take place.
Girls and women most at risk from FGM are part of the Kenyan, Somali, Sudanese, Sierra Leonean, Egyptian, Nigerian and Eritrean communities. Non-African communities that practise FGM include Yemeni, Afghani, Kurdish, Indonesian and Pakistani.
Mostly FGM is done to young girls, but FGM is sometimes done to an adult woman before she gets married or is re-done after she gives birth.
Why do traditional harmful practices happen?
FGM and other traditional harmful practices are carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities.
Some communities believe FGM is an important part of preparing for adulthood and marriage. FGM is often linked with beliefs about family ‘honour’ and some communities mistakenly believe FGM is a religious requirement. It is not.
FGM is both dangerous and illegal. It can cause serious physical, mental and emotional harm to the victim.
What can be done about FGM?
Every girl and woman has the right to grow up free from the abuse and violation of FGM. That’s why the government is strengthening the law to stop it.
FGM protection orders have recently been introduced to safeguard women and girls at risk of FGM. From October 2015, teachers and regulated health and social care professionals have to report known cases of FGM in girls to the police.
In Islington, organisations are working together to prevent FGM. There are specialist health services to support and help girls and women who have undergone FGM. In some cases, FGM can be surgically reversed.
I’m worried about someone. What should I do?
If you are worried that someone has been a victim of FGM or is at risk of FGM please report it. Do not delay! You could help someone avoid serious harm.
Never confront the people who have taken part in the traditional harmful practice. You need to ensure the victim’s safety and yours.
If you feel you are a victim of a traditional harmful practice such as FGM, please get in contact with us. We are here to help and protect you.
If the person or child is at risk of immediate harm, please call the Emergency Services on 999.
You can call Islington’s Access and Advice Service (Adult Social Services) on 020 7527 2299 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Minicom number is 020 7527 6475 You can also contact the Children's Services Contact Team on 0207 527 7400 or email email@example.com.