Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (shortened to ‘FGM’ and also sometimes referred to as ‘female circumcision’) is a violation of the human rights of women and girls. This refers to procedures that intentionally remove, cut, alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

NHS Digital statistics show that 3,050 girls and women identified with FGM attended a GP practice or NHS trust in England between January and March 2022.

NHS Digital confirm that between April 2015 and March 2022:

  • 30,280 women and girls who had undergone FGM were seen at NHS services in England where FGM was relevant to their attendance
  • 8% were over 18 years old when it was identified by NHS professionals that they had undergone FGM
  • Only 38.3% would disclose the age when FGM was carried out on them, but most (39.3%) of those who did disclose, confirmed that they underwent FGM at between 5 and 9 years old.
  • The majority, 50.7%, of those identified as undergoing FGM were identified by Midwifery staff. (Source: NHS Digital, June 2022)


More than 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in Africa - the continent with the highest levels of FGM. Somalia has the highest FGM figures of any African country, at 98% of girls (Source: UNICEF Report: ‘TOWARDS ENDING HARMFUL PRACTICES IN AFRICA: A statistical overview of child marriage and female genital mutilation’, June 2022).

FGM is practiced across at least 30 countries globally, mainly in East Africa but also in countries in the Middle East and Asia. Global migration means that FGM is a worldwide health and safeguarding issue, with cases identified in Western Europe, primarily among immigrant and refugee communities (Source: UK Government FGM Resource Pack, updated April 2022). The practice is illegal in the UK.

There are no health benefits to FGM and it can cause serious harm, both immediate and long term. Removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue interferes with the natural functions of girls' and women's bodies.

Immediate effects include: severe pain, shock, infections, injury to tissues and organs and in some cases it can lead to death.

Long-term consequences in adulthood include: chronic pain, infections, incontinence, problems having sex, infertility, complications in pregnancy, haemorrhaging, psychological damage and kidney problems.

  • It has been estimated by separate studies that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK each year (Source: The Independent, July 2015)

  • Estimates show 66,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM. (Source: The Independent, July 2015)

  • FGM is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, most commonly before puberty starts. However, FGM can be carried out at any age – some baby girls are cut soon after birth and some women after marriage.

  • The true extent of FGM in the UK is unknown due to the 'hidden' nature of the crime.
  • FGM is illegal in the UK as set out in the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003

  • It is an offence for any person (regardless of their nationality or residence status) to:
    • perform FGM in England or Wales
    • assist a girl to carry ot FGM on herself in England and Wales
    • assist (from England or Wales) a non-UK person to carry out FGM outside the UK on a UK national or UK resident.

  • Failing to protect a girl from risk of FGM is also an offence.


Reporting to the Police

In 2015, it became a legal requirement for regulated professionals to report to the police when anyone under 18 makes a first-hand disclosure of FGM, or if they find FGM during a healthcare examination.

English NHS health organisations must also submit quarterly data returns to NHS Digital about women and girls they have seen who have experienced FGM.


The FGM Task Group has recently launched a new FGM Assessment Toolkit with accompanying guidance.  Its purpose is to support in multi-agency assessment of whether FGM has taken place or if there is a risk of FGM to an adult, child or close family member. 

The Guardian Project coordinate care and support for girls and young women affected by or at risk of Female Genital Mutilation in Greater Manchester.

The project provides FREE services across Greater Manchester and is available five days a week.

The Guardian Project - care and support for girls and young women affected by, or at risk of, Female Genital Mutilation

The Guardian Project SOS clinic - psychosocial assessments, referrals, information, advice and support


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