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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It’s also known as female circumcision, cutting or sunna. Religious, social or cultural reasons are sometimes given for FGM.  However, FGM is dangerous and a criminal offence.

The term FGM covers all harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes. There are 4 types – all are illegal and have serious health risks.

Type 1 Excision of the clitoris prepuce (“Sunna-circumcision”) and of the clitoris or parts thereof.

Type 2 Excision of the clitoris prepuce, the clitoris and the inner lips or parts thereof. Type 1 and 2 are the most common types of FGM

Type 3 Excision of part of or all of the external genitals (“infibulation”, also referred to as “Pharaonic Circumcision”).

Type 4 Uncategorized. Pricking, piercing, cutting or stretching of the clitoris or the labia, also burning or scarring the genitals as well as ripping of the vaginal opening or the introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina in order to tighten it.

Even partial removal or ‘nipping’ can risk serious health problems for girls and women.

Worried and need help?


If you or someone you know needs help please call 0800 028 3550 or contact the Police on 999.

FGM is dangerous and unnecessary

There are no medical reasons to carry out FGM. It doesn’t enhance fertility and it doesn’t make childbirth safer. It is used to control female sexuality and can cause severe and long-lasting damage to physical and emotional health.

It has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985. In 2003 it also became a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to take their child abroad to have female genital mutilation. Anyone found guilty of the offence faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

FGM E-Learning Course
The course now includes information on the changes to the law introduced through the Serious Crime Act 2015, updated prevalence data, the NHS England enhanced dataset, and new guidance for UK Visas and Immigration.

To access the course, go to:

How FGM happens

FGM is usually performed by someone with no medical training. Girls are given no anaesthetic, no antiseptic treatment and are often forcibly restrained. The cutting is made using instruments such as a knife, pair of scissors, scalpel, glass or razor blade.

FGM can be extremely painful and dangerous

It can cause:

  • Severe pain
  • Shock
  • Bleeding
  • Infection such as tetanus, HIV and hepatitis B and C
  • Organ damage
  • Blood loss and infections can cause death in some cases.

FGM can cause ongoing health problems

Girls and women who have had FGM may have problems that continue through adulthood, including difficulties urinating, incontinence, frequent infections and pain when having sex.

Who is at risk?

FGM is most commonly carried out when a girl is 5-8 years old. However it can happen at any age before a girl or woman is married or pregnant. Some girls are babies when FGM is carried out.

In the UK, girls from the Somali, Kenyan, Sudanese, Sierra Leonean, Egyptian, Nigerian, Eritrean, Yemeni, Kurdish and Indonesian communities are most at risk of FGM.


What to look for:  the signs of FGM

A girl or woman may:

  • Have difficulty walking, sitting or standing
  • Spend longer than normal in the bathroom or toilet
  • Have unusual behaviour after an absence from school or college
  • Be particularly reluctant to undergo normal medical examinations
  • Ask for help, but may not be explicit about the problem due to embarrassment or fear.

What to do if you suspect FGM has already happened

If you suspect that FGM has happened, even if it’s not recently, you must seek help and advice: call the FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 or contact the Police on 999.

Help girls and women get the support they need

Victims of FGM may need additional medical or psychological support.
If you know someone who has been a victim, encourage them to speak to their GP or the FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 for more help.
Children can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111, by email or online.

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