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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

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What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for cultural rather than medical reasons.

It is a cruel, dangerous and painful practice and its effects can last a lifetime.

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 made it illegal for someone to take a British national or permanent resident out of the country so that FGM can be performed elsewhere or to assist someone in doing so.

If you are found guilty of FGM – or helping it take place – you can be sent to prison for up to 14 years.

Despite FGM being illegal in many countries, the practise is still widespread across the world.

The health implications: FGM is categorised into four types, depending on the severity of the surgery. The majority of girls are cut before they reach the age of 15.

The immediate effects are severe pain and bleeding, difficulty in passing urine, infections, injury, shock and sometimes even death. The long-term effects include chronic pain, pelvic and other infections, cysts, excessive scarring, complications in pregnancy and childbirth, painful intercourse and decreased sexual pleasure. The World Health Organisation lists the health consequences of FGM in more detail.

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 prohibits FGM.

The Serious Crime Act 2015 amended the 2003 Act to insert new provisions to extend extra-territorial jurisdiction for FGM, provide anonymity for victims of FGM, create a new offence of failure to protect a girl from FGM, introduce FGM Protection Orders, introduce a mandatory reporting duty requiring regulated health and social care professionals to report known cases of FGM in under 18s to the police.

Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 provides safeguarding legislation for both adults and children.

Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 outlines the collective role of the Public Service Boards (PSB). Statutory duties that can be discharged via a Wellbeing Plan, which can cover VAWDASV. A VAWDASV Strategy can meet the Statutory Duty and feed into the development of the local Wellbeing Plan.

In addition the following:

  • The Children Act 2004 (England and Wales)
  • The Human Rights Act 1998
  • The European Convention on Human Rights
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (the UK has ratified)
  • The section 47 of the Children Act 1989
  • The Adoption and Children Act 2002 
  • The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

BAWSO delivers specialist support services in Wales to people from BAME backgrounds who are affected by domestic abuse and other forms of abuse, including FGM, forced marriage, human trafficking and prostitution. In 2010 BAWSO established a female genital mutilation project, and an educational booklet for health professionals is available on request.

Visit the website

The Home Office produced a 8 minute film to raise awareness.

Watch the Film

In this short film, a survivor of FGM describes her experiences. Please note that this film has some content which viewers may find distressing.

Watch the Film

The NHS has produced this 5-minute film ‘FGM is child abuse’ about what FGM is and where to find help if you or someone you know is at risk of it. You can find it on the NHS website

Go to the NHS website

Protecting girls and young women from FGM

The Serious Crime Act 2015 introduced a legal duty for teachers and regulated health and social care professionals to tell the police if:

  • a girl under the age of 18 tells them she has undergone an act of FGM, or
  • they observe physical signs that an act of FGM may have been carried out on a girl under the age of 18.

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 requires professionals to inform the local council if they have reasonable cause to suspect a child is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect or other types of harm. This includes suspecting a child has undergone FGM or is at risk of it happening. 

This means professionals must inform both the police and the local council of their concerns.

Applying for a FGM Protection Order

Since July 2015, you can apply to the court for a FGM Protection Order if you are worried about a child or young woman. It is a criminal offence to breach this order (with a maximum five-year prison sentence). For more information and the relevant documentation, click here.

Raising concerns (as a lay person)

If you are concerned that a child or young person has undergone – or is about to undergo – FGM, contact your council’s Local Safeguarding Team in confidence or the police on 101. If it is an emergency, call 999.

You can also contact the FGM helpline on  0800 028 3550.

If someone has already been taken abroad : If it’s too late to stop the child or young woman being taken abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office immediately on 020 7008 1500.

Government Guidance

Female genital mutilation: guidance for professionals

Read the guidance

UK Government: Multi-agency guidelines provide advice and support to frontline professionals who have responsibilities to safeguard children and support adults from the abuses associated with FGM 

Read the guidance

Help and Support

For victims, families and concerned people

NSPCC FGM Helpline. Free confidential helpline if you are worried a child is at risk of, or has had, FGM.

0800 028 3550

Live Fear Free Helpline

0800 80 10 800

or email

For advice and support if someone is at risk of FGM. 


Visit the website

BAWSO guidelines for Police Officers

Wales Safeguarding Procedures: Safeguarding children from harmful practices related to tradition, culture, religion or superstition

Find the procedures here 

Home Office FGM: resource pack

Find the pack here 

Daughters of Eve offers advice and support to young women.

Visit their website