Lewisham Council - Female genital mutilation
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Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM), or female genital cutting, is an unacceptable practice where a girl’s genitalia are removed or cut for cultural reasons.

It is illegal in Britain, and is viewed as child abuse. It can happen to girls of any age, especially those between three and twelve.

  • Female genital mutilation is illegal in Britain and can carry a sentence of up to 14 years.
  • Some girls die after being cut.
  • Many girls suffer health problems for the rest of their lives after the operation.
  • FGM is widely viewed as harmful to health and most people see it as child abuse.

The health risks

When a girl who’s been cut becomes an adult, her chances of dying during childbirth are doubled, and she is more likely to give birth to a stillborn child.

Girls who have suffered from FGM are also at risk of bladder and vaginal infections, painful periods, scar tissue, cysts and abscesses and difficulty controlling the bladder.

Fortunately, there is support available to girls and women who have been cut – both medical help and counselling. However, the operation cannot be reversed, and its effects last a lifetime.

Why it happens

There are different reasons some cultures favour female genital mutilation – one is that it is a tradition that has been around for many generations. Some people believe that a girl who has not been cut is less likely to get married; for this reason, it is often a girl’s parents or family who are responsible for arranging FGM.

Mandatory Reporting

The Serious Crime Act 2015 introduced a mandatory reporting duty for health and social care professionals and teachers to report ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18s to the police. The duty has applied since 31 October 2015. A ‘known’ case is where either a girl informs the professional that she has been a victim of FGM or the professional observes physical signs that indicate that FGM has been carried out. 

Mandatory reporting does not apply to suspected cases of FGM in under 18s or cases of FGM in over 18s. The duty applies to all regulated professionals working within health or social care, and teachers. It is a personal duty, which requires the individual professional who becomes aware of the case to make a report; the responsibility cannot be transferred.

What can I do

  1. Contact the Lewisham MASH on mashagency@lewisham.gov.uk or on 020 8314 6660.
  2. Call the 24 hour NSPCC FGM helpline 0800 028 3550 If you are worried a child is at risk of, or is a victim of, FGM.
  3. Call the Athena Service on 0800 112 4052 or the Africa Advocacy Foundation (AAF) on 0208 698 4473.
  4. If the girl or woman has already been taken abroad, you should phone the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500.
  5. If you have been a victim of FGM you can visit a specialist FGM NHS clinic.

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