Female Genital Mutilation
What is female genital mutilation (FGM)?
FGM is when a female’s genitals are deliberately altered or removed for non-medical reasons. It’s also known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘cutting’, but has many other names.
You might have heard female genital mutilation (FGM) be called a different name. Some common names for FGM include:
there are no medical reasons to carry out FGM
it’s often performed by someone with no medical training, using instruments such as knives, scalpels, scissors, glass or razor blades. The risk of infection is significant.
children are rarely given anaesthetic or antiseptic treatment and are often forcibly restrained
it’s used to control female sexuality and can cause serious and long-lasting damage to physical and emotional health.
FGM can happen at different times in a girl or woman’s life, including:
when a baby is new-born
during childhood or as a teenager
just before marriage
Signs of FGM
A child who’s at risk of FGM might ask you for help, but some children might not know what’s going to happen to them, so it’s important to be aware of the signs.
Signs FGM might happen
A special occasion or ceremony takes place where a girl ‘becomes a woman’ or is ‘prepared for marriage’
A female relative, like a mother, sister or aunt has undergone FGM
A family arranges a long holiday overseas or visits a family abroad during the summer holidays
A girl struggles to keep up in school
A girl runs away – or plans to run away – from home
Signs FGM might have taken place
Having difficulty walking, standing or sitting
Spending longer in the bathroom or toilet
Appearing quiet, anxious or depressed
Acting differently after an absence from school or college
Reluctance to go to the doctors or have routine medical examinations
Asking for help – though they might not be explicit about the problem because they’re scared or embarrassed
If a child reveals abuse
A child who has faced, or is worried about, FGM might not realise what’s happening is wrong, or they might even blame themselves. If a child talks to you about FGM it’s important to:
listen carefully to what they’re saying
let them know they’ve done the right thing by telling you
tell them it’s not their fault
say you’ll take them seriously
don’t confront the alleged abuser
explain what you’ll do next
report what the child has told you as soon as possible
Effects of FGM
There are no health benefits to FGM. It can cause serious harm, including:
severe and/or constant pain
infections, such as tetanus, HIV, hepatitis B and C, or sepsis
pain or difficulty having sex
bleeding, cysts and abscesses
difficulties urinating or incontinence
problems during pregnancy and childbirth, which can be life-threatening for the mother and baby
mental health problems, such as depression, flashbacks and self-harm
death from blood loss or infections.