Female Genital Mutilation advice
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of child abuse and violence against women and is illegal in England and Wales under the FGM Act 2003. The act covers all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
All health and social care professionals and teachers in England have a mandatory duty to report any known FGM cases in under 18s to the police, which have been identified in the course of their professional work. Professionals also have a duty to protect a child who they believe may be at risk of FGM.
FGM occurs both abroad and in the UK (including British girls) and the age at which girls undergo FGM varies enormously, although the majority of cases are thought to take place between the ages of 5 and 8. It is believed that girls of school age are taken abroad at the start of the school holidays, particularly in the summer holidays, or have the FGM procedure administered at home, usually by a visiting female elder, in order for there to be sufficient time for them to recover before returning to their studies.
During the summer months, professionals should be extra vigilant and look out for some of the following signs, which could indicate that a child is at risk of FGM:
- The family belong to a community in which FGM is practiced. FGM is deeply rooted in tradition and widely practiced among specific ethnic populations in Africa and parts of the Middle East
- The family have strong levels of influence from elders
- A female elder is present, possibly visiting from a country of origin
- The family makes preparations for the child to take a holiday
- The child talks about a special ceremony / procedure
- Awareness by a midwife or obstetrician that the procedure has already been carried out on a mother
For further guidance on FGM, please visit the Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Board FGM procedures webpage or the Home Office’s mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation: procedural information webpage.
To find out more about free online training, please visit the Safeguarding Children e-Academy website.