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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is a form of child abuse and violence against women and girls, as well as being a violation of their human rights.

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.

FGM is also known as female circumcision, cutting or sunna and is practiced by families and communities for a variety of complex reasons including religious or cultural reasons but often it is believed that it is beneficial for the girl or woman. However, FGM has no health benefits, it is dangerous, a criminal offence and causes harm to girls and women in many ways.

The age at which girls undergo FGM varies enormously according to different communities. The procedure may be carried out when a girl is newborn, during childhood or adolescence, just before marriage or during the first pregnancy. However, the majority of cases of FGM are thought to take place between the ages of 5 and 8 and therefore girls within that age bracket are at a higher risk.

FGM related legislation

FGM is illegal. Under the FGM Act 2003, a person is guilty of an offence if they excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of a girl’s or woman’s labia majora, labia minora or clitoris, except for necessary operations performed by a registered medical professional on physical and mental health grounds.

It is also an offence to assist a girl to perform FGM on herself. Any person found guilty of an offence under the Act will be liable to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment or/and a fine.

The Serious Crime Act 2015 also brought in a number of other changes:

  • Duty to notify the police of FGM (mandatory reporting): This section places a duty on those who work in ‘regulated professions’ namely healthcare professionals, teachers and social care workers, to notify the police when, in the course of their work, they discover that an act of FGM appears to have been carried out on a girl who is under 18. Failing to comply with the duty will be dealt with via existing disciplinary measures, which may include referral to the professional regulator and/or Disclosure and Barring Service as appropriate. This duty is effective from 31st October 2015. Further guidance on the mandatory reporting duty can be found in the Home Office guidance Mandatory Reporting for FGM procedures. The mandatory reporting Factsheet produced by the Department of Health provides additional information for mandate reporters.
  • Anonymity for victims: lifelong anonymity for alleged victims of FGM. The aim here is to increase reporting of FGM by encouraging victims to report FGM offences and to increase prosecutions by helping the victim feel safe in their anonymity if they report a crime against them.
  • Duty to protect a girl: there is a new offence of failing to protect a girl under the age of 16 from FGM. A person is liable if they are ‘responsible’ (possess parental responsibility) for a girl or have assumed responsibility for caring for a girl at the time when the offence is committed against her (this can include a Local Authority who has parental responsibility). · FGM Protection Orders: the high court or family courts will be able to make a protection order, which can be used to protect a girl who may be at risk of an FGM offence or a girl to whom FGM has been committed. It will be a criminal offence to breach the order and the penalty will be a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment or as a civil breach punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

For more information on FGM related legislation read the Home Office Factsheet.

For professionals working across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, please refer to the multi-agency FGM procedures

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