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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) includes all procedures involving total or partial removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It's also known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘cutting, and by other terms such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, among others. FGM has no health benefits, and no religious texts require girls to be ‘cut’, however FGM is carried out under the banners of culture and religion within families and communities in the mistaken belief that it benefits the girl in some way, eg. preserve/prove her virginity as a preparation for marriage.

The highest FGM prevalence communities include Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. This is not an exhaustive list; there are other practicing communities across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Practices vary across communities with girls/women being ‘cut’ at any time from two days after birth, before puberty, during pregnancy, or following delivery of their first child. The most prevalent age group is 0-15 years, and some recent reports suggest that the age range is getting younger.

Procedures can cause a range of problems, including: severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth, increased risk of new-born deaths, psychological and sexual problems.

Under The FGM Act 2003, FGM is illegal in England and Wales as is taking abroad British subjects for FGM to be performed. Anyone who performs or causes to perform FGM can face up to 14 years in prison, and a responsible person (i.e. someone who has parental responsibility and frequent contact or has assumed responsibility "in the manner of a parent") found guilty of failing to protect a girl from FGM can face up to 7 years in prison.

Front line staff are crucial in identifying and preventing FGM. Prevention is imperative as it is not possible to fully reverse these procedures. All regulated and unregulated staff continue to need to follow local safeguarding procedures.

Information for practitioners

Any information or concern that a female is at immediate risk of, or has undergone, FGM should result in a safeguarding referral to MASH 01902 551199 and/or the Police.

Ring 999 if the adult is in imminent danger of being harmed or removed from the UK.

Mandatory Reporting Duty for Girls Under 18

Any adult assessment must consider the potential risks of FGM to any other women or girls living in the same family. In addition to general safeguarding duties, since October 2015 all registered health and social care professionals and qualified teachers have a personal professional duty to report FGM in girls under 18 years; professional registration can be affected by non-compliance with this duty.

Below is a pathway to support mandatory reporting:

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Report to 101 explaining you are reporting under the mandatory FGM reporting duty, you will receive a reference number which will need to be recorded.

Click here for Multi Agency Practice Guidelines

Click here for NHS FGM information scroll down to the bottom of the NHS page for leaflets which can be downloaded in different languages.

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