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What is Female Genital Mutilation? (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation, also referred to, in English, as female circumcision or cutting, is a procedure where the female genitals are cut, changed or injured. FGM is illegal in this country and is perpetrated without informed consent,  against girls ranging from infancy to approximately 15 years of age.

Female Genital Mutilation is performed as part of certain communities cultural belief systems, there is no medical reason for the procedure and the effects are long lasting; it often results in constant pain, incontinence, trauma related mental ill health, pain during sex, difficulties during labour and childbirth that can lead to fatalities of mothers and babies, repeated infections causing bleeding, cysts and abscesses and various other physical and mental health related difficulties. In the worst cases, young girls are killed during or following the procedure, due to severe blood loss or infection.

There is a common misconception that FGM does not happen in our community, but rather it is a foreign issue that happens in far away foreign countries and is associated with religious belief systems, this is not the case. FGM is happening all over the world, including Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and is rooted in cultural norms, not religion.  As such, it is absolutely imperative that all professionals are aware that FGM is happening near them, which indicators and signs to look for and where to get help for someone they think may be at risk of FGM or someone that may have already undergone FGM.

The cultural beliefs that perpetuate and promote FGM are prevalent in communities with origins in:

  • Egypt
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia
  • Guinea
  • Indonesia
  • Ivory Coast
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Nigeria
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Yemen

There are many British families, whose heritage determines that young girls in their families need to undergo FGM. There are also families that will travel to the UK to perform FGM, for example a family living in Europe, of Ethiopian descent, may have a family member or friend who performs the procedure, living in the UK.

The Summer holidays are often a dangerous time for young girls at risk of FGM, as the 6 week holiday provides time to recover. Safer Cornwall is keen to ensure that all professionals are confident in identifying and responding to FGM, as we are aware that our county may be used as a location to perform the procedure, undetected.

Help and Support

If you have experienced FGM, are at risk of FGM or know someone that has experienced or is at risk of FGM you can:

  • Call the police on 999 if you are in immediate danger or 101 for non-emergency
  • Call the NSPCC for free and anonymously on 0800 028 3550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk
  • Contact the Multi Agency Referral Unit (MARU) on:
  • Contact FGM National Clinical Group http://www.fgmnationalgroup.org/
  • Contact FORWARD https://www.forwarduk.org.uk/
  • Contact Daughters of Eve http://www.dofeve.org/

All of the agencies listed above will be able to provide you with information and guidance and support you into safety and recovery.


If you are a health, social care of education professional, you have a mandatory duty to report FGM cases to the Police. For more information follow this link:

Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation: procedural information


For further information and advice contact Anna MacGregor on 07483409171 or email Anna.MacGregor@cornwall.gov.uk



Pages updated by Anna MacGregor and Liz Howard
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E: esorensen@cornwall.gov.uk

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