SSCB Briefing 10 Female Genital Mutilation July 2013

SSCB Briefing 10 Female Genital Mutilation July 2013

Staffordshire Safeguarding Children Board (SSCB)

Briefing Note for Practitioners & Managers (10)

July 2013

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is an extremely harmful practice with devastating health consequences for girls and women. It is the mutilation of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is sometimes known as female circumcision or ‘sunna’.

FGM is a serious criminal offence in the UK under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and anyone found guilty of an FGM offence or of aiding and abetting such an offence faces a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

It is important to understand that this practice is child abuse and cannot be disguised as being part of any culture.

Although FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, it still continues to be practised in secret. Some communities from parts of Africa and the Middle East, from both Muslim and Christian traditions, believe it is a necessary part of becoming a woman. They strongly believe that it reduces female sex drive and therefore the chances of sex outside marriage.

FGM can cause extreme pain as well as physical and psychological problems that can continue into adulthood. It is often carried out without anaesthetic and some girls die from blood loss or infection as a direct result of the procedure. Women who have undergone FGM are also likely to experience difficulty in childbirth.

Some 20,000 girls in England and Wales are thought to be at risk, according to government estimates and the NSPCC states that victims are usually aged between four and 10, but some are younger. School summer holidays are sometimes used to take children abroad for this procedure.

On 24 June 2013 the NSPCC launched a helpline to help protect UK children from female genital mutilation (FGM) after finding that over 1,700 victims were referred to specialist clinics in the last two years.

The Free NSPCC FGM Helpline

The free 24-hour helpline, 0800 028 3550 is aimed at anyone who is concerned that a child's welfare could be at risk because of female genital mutilation; particularly teachers and medical staff, but they are also hoping that relatives will access the support.The helpline is run by NSPCC child protection experts who have had training, along with experts who work with women and girls who have undergone this form of ritual mutilation.

Though callers’ details can remain anonymous, any information that could protect a child from abuse will be passed to the police or social services. The government hopes that information gathered from calls to the helpline will provide partners with the intelligence required to take action against those who facilitate FGM.An NSPCC spokesperson said:

"There is a huge pressure within these communities to keep quiet about female genital mutilation, with some people even being threatened with violence if they speak out. We want this helpline to be a safe space for families who are against their daughter having female genital mutilation but feel powerless to stop it. Anyone from these communities can speak to us to get advice and help about female genital mutilation without fear of reprisal."

All partner agencieswho work with young girls who may be at risk of FGM can order copies of the FGMstatement to give to young people, who should be encouraged to keep the statement with them in their passport, purse or wallet at all times and especially when they go abroad. The statement advises young people to speak to a teacher, doctor, school nurse, social worker, police officer or any health, educational or social care professional in confidence if they have concerns that FGM will happen to them or to someone they know.

The FGM statement outlines the following:

  • What FGM is;
  • The legislation and penalties involved; and
  • The help and support available is available to both children and to professionals working with them.

The FGM Statement isavailable in the following languages: English, French, Arabic, Somali, Swahili, Amharic, Tigrina, Urdu, Farsi/Afghan, Turkish and Welsh.

If you are concerned that a child’s welfare could be at risk because of FGM and are seeking advice, information or support, contact the helpline on

0800 028 3550 or use the NSPCC email address to request support at:. If you think a child is at immediate risk please contact the police by calling 999.

Access to the SSCB procedure on FGM can be found by using the following link:

SSCB Briefing – Female Genital Mutilation NSPCC Helpline

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