sussex police website brighton & hove city council website

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reason.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act was introduced in 2003 and came into effect in March 2004.

The Act:

  • Makes it illegal to practice FGM in the UK;
  • Makes it illegal to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM whether or not it is lawful in that country;
  • Makes it illegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad;
  • Has a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and/or a fine.

FGM is a type of harmful practice. These are forms of violence and abuse which have been committed primarily against women and girls in certain communities and societies for so long that they are considered, or presented by perpetrators, as part of accepted cultural practice.

If this is happening to you, there are things you can do to help keep yourself safe. Click here to find out how.

There is a local FGM Resource Pack.

If you think there's a risk of this happening to you, you can download the Statement Opposing FGM and take it with you on holiday to show your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Female Genital Mutilation illegal?

    In 1985 the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act made it a criminal offence to perform FGM. In 2003 the Female Genital Mutilation Act tightened this law to criminalise FGM being carried out on UK citizens overseas. It is an offence to:

    • Undertake the operation (except on specific physical or mental health grounds)
    • Assist a girl to mutilate her own genitalia
    • Assist a non-UK person to undertake female genital mutilation of a UK national outside the UK (except on specific physical or mental health grounds)
    • Assist a UK national or permanent UK resident to undertake female genital mutilation of a UK national outside the UK (except on specific physical or mental health grounds).

    Anyone found guilty of the offence faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. 

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  • What is Female Genital Mutilation?

    FGM is sometimes referred to as Female Circumcision or Female Genital Cutting, is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the range of procedures which involve ‘the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reason’.

    The Pan Sussex Child Protection & Safeguarding Procedures use a similar definition of FGM, which is used as the collective term for procedures which include the removal of part or all of the external female genitalia for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons

    The WHO classifies FGM into four types:

    • Type 1, Clitoridectomy: Partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, rarely, the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris) as well
    • Type 2, Excision: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are ‘the lips’ that surround the vagina)
    • Type 3, Infibulation: Narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner and sometimes outer labia, with or without removal of the clitoris
    • Type 4, Other: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterising the genital area. Type 4 is noted by professionals to be common among [FGM] practising communities, however, it is also the type that often goes unnoticed and therefore not recorded.
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  • What if I am worried about Female Genital Mutilation and may be going abroad?

    If you are worried about FGM and going abroad, you could take a copy of the ‘Statement opposing Female Genital Mutilation’, which is sometimes called a ‘Heath Passport’. The FGM statement highlights the fact that FGM is a serious criminal offence in the UK with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. Someone worried about FGM should print out this statement, take it with them abroad and show it to their family. They could keep the declaration in their passport, purse or bag and should carry it all the time.  Download the FGM statement (PDF, 632Kb)

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