FGM or female circumcision
FGM (Female Genital Mutilation)
Also known as female circumcision or cutting
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is also known as female circumcision or cutting. It is a procedure involving removal of part or all of a girls external sex parts. There are 4 types of FGM. The least severe type includes pricking or removing the clitoris and is sometimes called Sunna. The most severe type is called Infibulation and involves removing the clitoris and fleshy lips around the vagina known as the labia. The skin is then stitched together leaving only a tiny hole as an opening to the vagina.
Why is FGM performed?
FGM is believed to have started in the 5th century BC and originally began because men wanted to control women’s’ sexuality. Today it is practised in about 28 African countries, parts of Asia and Latin America and across the developed world where immigration from practicing communities has taken place.
The reasons given for practicing FGM include: custom, cleanliness, preserving a girl’s virginity and ensuring she is accepted by her community and can get married. There is also a mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement. No religion actually supports the practice of FGM.
FGM is rarely carried out in a clean environment but usually takes place on the floor or table in someone’s home. The instruments used aren’t sterile or clean and are often used on many girls at one time. FGM causes both short term and long term health problems.
Short term problems include:
- Broken bones from being held down
- Infections and a high risk of getting HIV and Aids
- Urine problems
- Damage to other organs and tissues
- Haemorrhage which can result in death
Long term problems include:
- Vaginal, urine, kidney and pelvic infections
- Problems with periods and urinating
- High risk of infertility
- Problems with pregnancy and childbirth
- Emotional and psychological problems
Who is at risk?
School aged girls from certain ethnic groups are most at risk; these include Somalian, Sudanese, Ethiopian and Gambian girls. In Bristol it is estimated that about 1200 girls are at risk of having FGM.
FGM and the law
It is illegal for any girl or woman living in the UK to have FGM either at home or abroad. The maximum penalty for anyone organising or carrying out FGM is 14 years in prison. Even though there have not been any prosecutions yet in the UK the police are confident there will be soon. There have been many prosecutions for FGM in Europe and America.
What to do if you are at risk
If you or anyone you know thinks they are at risk of FGM it is important to tell a trusted adult like a teacher or School Nurse. You can also contact any of the agencies listed below.
If you or someone you know has already undergone FGM you can get confidential medical help and advice. Please see the useful contact list below.
Tel 0800 800 5000
Specialist NHS medical help at Charlotte Keel Health Centre,
Tel: 0117 902 7100, ask for Health Links.
– women’s counselling, psychotherapy &
support service for refugee and asylum seekers.
Tel: 0845 458 2914 www.womankindbristol.org.uk
– Support, mentoring and counselling for victims of FGM.
Tel: 0117 3763007 or visit 60 Old Market Street, Old market, Bristol
– support for women suffering / at risk of
domestic abuse. Service for black / minority ethnic
Tel: 0117 925 0680. www.nextlinkhousing.co.uk
– The Foundation for Women’s Health,
Research and Development – for African women & girls. Tel: 020 8960 4000
Ridingleaze, Lawrence Weston, BS11 0GE
Tel: 0117 903 8700
Symes House, Hartcliffe, BS13 0EE
Tel: 0117 353 2200
Welsman, Princes Street, St Pauls, BS2 9JA
Tel: 0117 903 6500
CYPS out of office hours
Tel: 01454 615 165
Tel 0117 945 4320