Skip to main content

Communities Tackling FGM in the UK: Best Practice Guide

Authors: Khalifa, S and Brown, E

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognised as a severe form of violence against women and girls and a human rights violation that affects at least 200 million women and girls (UNICEF, 2016) around the world. FGM is a practice that involves changing, altering or removing part of a girl or a woman’s external female genitalia without a medical or health reason. The World Health Organization has classified FGM into four major types ranging from pricking the clitoris to narrowing the vaginal opening. Despite FGM being a deeply embedded social norm with complex and various sociocultural justifications, it is a harmful and dangerous practice which can result in severe physical and mental health complications.

FGM is illegal in the UK and is a form of child abuse. The FGM Act 2003 and the Prohibition of FGM (Scotland) Act 2005 made it a criminal offence to perform FGM. The Serious Crime Act 2015 has also tightened legislation on FGM and added measures to protect girls and women from undergoing the procedure. More information about FGM legislation is available in the Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance on FGM (2016).

FGM prevalence in the UK is difficult to estimate due to the hidden nature of the practice. However, the latest data on prevalence in England and Wales (City University London and Equality Now, 2015) estimates that: approximately 60,000 girls aged 0-14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM; and approximately 127,000 women who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM. In addition, approximately 10,000 girls (under the age of 15) who have migrated to England and Wales may have undergone FGM.