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Female Genital Mutilation and Breast Ironing

Female Genital Mutilation

Information, guidance and resources can be found the CPLSCB FGM webpage.

Breast Ironing

Professionals working with children and young people must be able to identify the signs and symptoms of girls who are at risk of or have undergone breast ironing. Similarly to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), breast ironing is classified as physical abuse.

Breast ironing uses heated objects, including stones and hammers, to flatten a girl’s breasts and stop them from developing and is typically carried out when the girls are aged between 11 and 15, as they enter puberty, and is often done by the victim’s own family under the ‘misguided intention’ of protecting her from rape and sexual harassment.

As well as extreme pain and psychological damage, the practice puts the young women at increased risk of developing cysts, infections and even cancer.

Tri.x have produced a useful policy briefing on breast ironing which can be found at

There is no specific law banning breast ironing in the UK and no-one has ever been prosecuted for carrying out the practice. However, offenders can be prosecuted for a range of crimes, including common assault, child cruelty and grievous bodily harm.

Professionals may be reluctant to tackle the issue because of ‘cultural sensitivities’ – the words ‘culture’, ‘tradition’ or ‘religion’ might come up when trying to explain this harmful practice, but as in the case of female genital mutilation (FGM), breast ironing is a ritualised form of child abuse.

Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage but are coerced into it. Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure. In cases of vulnerable adults who lack the capacity to consent to marriage, coercion is not required for a marriage to be forced.Forced marriage is a criminal offence and can seriously affect the health and development of those affected. All agencies must cooperate and work together to protect children and young people at risk of or who have been forced to marry.

In 2014, the Government developed two sets of multi-agency guidance to tackle forced marriage. The first is entitled: Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines: Handling cases of Forced Marriage, provides advice and support to frontline professionals who have responsibilities to safeguard those affected by this issue.
The second is statutory guidance issued under section 63Q(1) of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 (2007 c.20) and is aimed at Chief Executives, Directors and Senior Managers. The Right to Choose: Multi-agency guidance for dealing with forced marriage.

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) was set up by the Government in 2005 and operates both inside the UK and overseas; where consular assistance is provided to British and dual nationals. In addition to its support and outreach service, the FMU offers training and operates a helpline to provide advice and support to victims and professionals dealing with cases. To contact the FMU click here.

The FMU have developed an e-learning package which can be accessed here

So Called 'Honour-Based Violence'

So called “honour crime”, “honour-based violence” or “izzat” (mainly a South Asian term) embrace a variety of crimes of violence mainly perpetrated towards girls and women, including assault, imprisonment and murder where the person is being punished by their family or their community. The family or community are punishing them for undermining what they believe to be the correct code of behaviour.
Failure to adhere to the correct code of behaviour is an indicator to the family that the person cannot be controlled to conform and this brings “shame” to the family.

“Honour-based violence” usually occurs with some degree of approval by family and/ community members and it has an international dimension as victims can be taken overseas where the violence is then perpetrated. It can also be a trigger for a forced marriage.

Child Abuse linked to Faith & Belief

Child abuse linked to faith or belief can be open to several different interpretations. This section focuses on children and young people accused of being a witch or of witchcraft and being abused because it is believe that they are “possesed” by evil spirits (spirit possession). Abuse linked to faith or belief is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of children and young people and can have serious consequences.

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