The Facts

FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation. It is sometimes called female circumcision, cutting or sunna. This is the partial or complete removal of a girl's external genitals (private parts). Sometimes the vagina is also sewn up too. FGM is a tradition practiced on girls in 28 African countries and parts of the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

There are 4 types of FGM:

  • Type 1 – Clitoridectomy – removing part or all of the clitoris.
  • Type 2 – Excision – removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (larger outer lips).
  • Type 3 – Infibulation – narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
  • Other harmful procedures to the female genitals, which include pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping and burning 

FGM has no known health benefits and can be extremely dangerous; sometimes leading to death. Religious, social or cultural reasons are sometimes given however FGM is illegal in the UK – it’s also illegal to arrange for someone to be taken out of the country to be cut.

The Risk

The immediate effects and risks of FGM are:

  • Severe pain
  • Shock
  • Bleeding
  • Wound infections, including tetanus and gangrene, as well as blood-borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C
  • Inability to urinate
  • Injury to vulval tissues surrounding the entrance to the vagina 
  • Damage to other organs nearby, such as the urethra (where urine passes) and the bowel 
  • FGM can sometimes cause death.

The long term effects and risks of FGM are:

  • Chronic vaginal and pelvic infections
  • Abnormal periods
  • Difficulty passing urine, and persistent urine infections
  • Kidney impairment and possible kidney failure
  • Damage to the reproductive system, including infertility
  • Cysts and the formation of scar tissue
  • Complications in pregnancy and newborn deaths 
  • Pain during sex and lack of pleasurable sensation
  • Psychological damage, including low libido, depression and anxiety (see below) 
  • Flashbacks during pregnancy and childbirth
  • The need for later surgery to open the lower vagina for sexual intercourse and childbirth

The Signs

Those most at risk of FGM are girls between infancy and the age of 15 – majority of cases occur between the ages of 5 and 8.

If you are worried someone you know may be at risk of FGM, or has already gone through FGM and may need some support; these are the things to look out for!

PRE-FGM Procedure

  • Someone absent from school for a long period of time, usually either side of the school holidays, with no reason/ you are going to another country for a long period of time and are unsure why
  • If a mother/family member has already gone through FGM – as this means someone in the family believes in FGM
  • If a family belongs to a community where FGM is practiced
  • If someone is talking about having a ‘special procedure’ or ‘becoming a woman’

Post-FGM Procedure

  • Continued prolonged absence from school or other physical activities
  • Someone returns from a long stay away and their behaviour has changed
  • Bladder or menstrual (period) problems – like needing to go the toilet a lot or spending a long time in the toilet
  • Having difficulty sitting still, or complaining about a pain between their legs
  • Someone talking about something somebody did but they are not allowed to talk about

Who can help?

If you are worried about FGM happening to you or a friend, or have gone through FGM and feel you need support, here are some people and places you can go for support:

  • Speak to a SaFE Worker, a teacher, tutor, or adult outside of your family that you trust
  • Speak to the school nurse 
  • Go to the Help Page on this website for Childline numbers


Daughter’s of Eve is a great charity set up to support young girls experiencing or at risk of FGM:

Contact Us

Bengarth Road, Northolt, Middlesex, UB5 5LQ

020 8841 4511

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