What is FGM?
FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation and is also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting. FGM has no health benefits and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, interfering with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
FGM is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
To learn more about FGM click here to download and listen to a radio drama made by 14 teenagers aged between 14 and 16 years old from ethnic minority communities in Bristol.
What are the signs that this is going to happen?
Signs that FGM may be planned include plans for a long holiday with a special celebration about becoming a woman, and your family may talk about ‘pinching your bottom’.
Why is FGM performed?
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 the NSPCC 24/7 helpline on 0800 028 3550.
In an emergency dial 999 or contact your local Police Station.
Below are other useful numbers, advice or information around FGM including support, advice and counselling.
NSPCC FGM Helpline (24/7 Help line)
If you need advice or information about Female Genital Mutilation or are worried about a child at risk, you can call 24/7. 0800 028 3550 firstname.lastname@example.org
Support for women suffering/at risk of domestic abuse. Service for black and minority ethnic people Tel: 0117 925 0680.
The Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development – for African women & girls. Tel: 020 8960 4000.
Women’s counselling, psychotherapy & support service for refugee and asylum seekers. Tel: 0845 458 2914.
Children and Young People’s Social Care (CYPS)
If you’re concerned about the well-being of a child contact the First Response Team on 0117 903 6444
If you or someone you know has already undergone FGM you can get confidential medical help and advice.
Bristol Community Rose Clinic at Eastville Medical Practice.
Provides support for women experiencing any health problems as a result of FGM. The clinic offers ‘opening’ surgery under local anaesthetic (awake) or can arrange for the surgery at a local hospital under general anaesthetic (asleep).
Tel: 07813 016 911
This service is confidential and the reception staff at Eastville Medical Practice cannot take bookings, email the clinic for advice or to make an appointment.