FGM A6 Booklet 2016 – Created by Suffolk Refugee Support
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is also sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision. There are no health benefits to FGM and it is recognised internationally as a human rights violation.
Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types:
- Type 1 – Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
- Type 2 – Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
- Type 3 – Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
- Type 4 – Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
Effects of FGM
There are no health benefits to FGM. Removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
- severe pain
- wound infections, including tetanus and gangrene, as well as blood-borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B & hepatitis C
- inability to urinate
- injury to vulval tissues surrounding the entrance to the vagina
- damage to other organs nearby, such as the urethra (where urine passes) and the bowel
FGM can sometimes cause death.
- chronic vaginal and pelvic infections
- abnormal periods
- difficulty passing urine, and persistent urine infections
- kidney impairment and possible kidney failure
- damage to the reproductive system, including infertility
- cysts and the formation of scar tissue
- complications in pregnancy and newborn deaths
- pain during sex and lack of pleasurable sensation
- psychological damage, including low libido, depression and anxiety (see below)
- flashbacks during pregnancy and childbirth
- the need for later surgery to open the lower vagina for sexual intercourse and childbirth
Psychological and mental health problems
Case histories and personal accounts taken from women indicate that FGM is an extremely traumatic experience for girls and women, which stays with them for the rest of their lives.
Young women receiving psychological counselling in the UK report feelings of betrayal by parents, as well as regret and anger.
The legal situation
FGM is illegal in the UK. It is also illegal to arrange for a child to be taken abroad for FGM. If caught, offenders face a large fine and a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
What to do if you have any concerns:
In Suffolk, children/young people suspected to be at risk of, or suspected to have undergone FGM should be referred using the same pathway as used for Child Sexual Abuse through the MASH, and a referral should be made to Customer First in the same way as any other case of suspected child abuse, by calling 0808 800 4005.
You will not need consent from the family/carer to make this referral. You would usually be open and honest with them about your concerns and why you were making the referral, but where children/young people may be placed at increased risk if the family are aware of concerns, the referral should be made covertly. In FGM cases there may be coercion / control involved, which could have serious repercussions for the girls or women in the family.
All girls or women who have undergone FGM should be offered counselling to address how things will be different for them afterwards. Boyfriends, partners and husbands should also be offered counselling as appropriate. There are several NHS clinics in London and other large UK cities, offering specialist health services including corrective surgery. A list of FGM health services can be found on NHS Choices website.
Support for you
FGM is a dangerous practice and is against the law. If you or someone you know is in immediate risk of harm you can call the emergency services by dialling 999. The police and health services recognise FGM and can protect you from harm
ChildLine Call us free on 0800 1111 (it won’t show up on a phone bill). The most important thing to know is that you can get help to stay safe – you don’t have to cope on your own. You can talk to our counsellors. They understand that it can be very difficult to talk about what is happening and will let you take your time. If you are worried about FGM happening to you or if you think you might be taken abroad for it to be done, you can get a FGM protection order to stop this. This is a legal document that can protect you. ChildLine can help you get this from a family court or you could call the police on 999.
Practice Guidance & Resources
Multi Agency Practice Guidelines on Female Genital Mutilation (2014):
Mandatory Reporting of Female Genital Mutilation – procedural information
Suffolk Safeguarding Board Guidance on FGM
National 24 hour Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 200 247