Information and guidance on what to do if someone is at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It's also known as female circumcision or cutting.
It is illegal to take abroad a British national or permanent resident for female genital mutilation, or to help someone trying to do this.
If you are concerned that a person you are working with (or their children) may be at risk of FGM, you need to be sensitive to the cultural and social background of the person at risk. There are many myths surrounding FGM handed down generation to generation which may influence how the individual responds or they may find it difficult to discuss such an intimate matter.
NSPCC FGM helpline
The NSPCC FGM helpline is a free confidential helpline if you are worried a child is at risk of, or has had, female genital mutilation.
NSPCC FGM helpline
Tel: 0800 028 3550
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For advice and support, if you or someone you know at risk of female genital mutiliation (FGM), call Live Fear Free on 0808 80 10 800 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Professionals who suspect a girl or women is at risk of FGM should report the matter to social services under the regular safeguarding arrangements.
Healthcare professionals should be aware of specific factors which may make a person more at risk:
- Any girl born to a woman who has been subjected to FGM (or other female children in the extended family).
- Any girl whose sister has undergone treatment for FGM (or other female children in the extended family).
Professionals with safeguarding responsibilities
The UK Government has produced multi-agency statutory guidelines which provide advice and support to frontline professionals who have responsibilities to safeguard children and protect and support adults from the abuses associated with FGM.
The guidance provides information on:
- identifying when a girl (including an unborn girl) or young woman may be at risk of FGM and responding appropriately to protect them
- identifying when a girl or young woman has had FGM and responding appropriately to support them.
Female genital mutilation protection order
You can apply for a protection order if you or someone you know is at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM). This will help to keep you, or the person you know, safe from another person.
Someone else, for example, from a local authority can also apply for a protection order on your behalf.
Communicating with victims
Individuals who have undergone FGM require a multi agency response to look after their physical and mental well-being. There should therefore be co-operation between services across the third sector, child protection, health care, the police and the prosecution services.
If you are working with people who have disclosed that they have had FGM, you should:
- create an opportunity for the individual to disclose by speaking to them alone and in private
- ensure no family or community member is present – consider using an appropriate adult rather than a family member when interviewing a minor.
- make no assumptions
- give the individual time to talk
- be sensitive to the intimate nature of the subject
- be sensitive to the fact that the individual may be loyal to their parents
- be non-judgmental
- use simple language and ask straightforward questions
- avoid loaded or offensive terminology such as ‘mutilation’
- adopt a victim-centred approach ‒ offer accurate information about the person’s choices and rights and respect their wishes where possible.
Additional communication guidance
It is important that all professionals can signpost victims appropriately and offer immediate safety advice to clients. This forms the basis of more detailed safety planning and may include:
- Ensuring the client knows to call 999 in an emergency.
- Have details of local specialist services and the Live Fear Free Helpline on hand to share with clients.
- Advise the client to try and keep their mobile phone with them at all times.
- Encourage the client to engage with services which can help them and their children.
- Engage in multi agency discussions such as local MARACs or the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).
The National Training Framework can provide training on:
- basic awareness of what violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence is
- how to recognise domestic abuse and sexual violence
- help available to victims
- communicating sensitively to victims.