What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting, and in practising communities by local terms such as ‘tahor’ or ‘sunna’. It can have devastating physical and psychological consequences for girls and women

The procedure is traditionally carried out by a female with no medical training, without anaesthetics or antiseptic treatments, using knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades. The girl is sometimes forcibly restrained (NHS Choices, 2013).


FGM is illegal in the UK, and it is also illegal to take or help someone else take a British national or a permanent resident of the UK abroad for FGM. There is a prison sentence of up to 14 years for this crime.

Why is FGM carried out?

Religious reasons: There are varying positions within religion, some believe and promote it, whilst others consider it irrelevant and others contribute to trying to eliminate it. Interestingly, there are no religious scripts that prescribe the practice. However practioners often believe that FGM has religious support.

Cultural reasons:

  • It is believed that FGM is considered a necessary way of raising a girl properly, ready for adulthood and marriage
  • Involved with cultural ideas of femininity and modesty with the view that the girls are clean and beautiful after this procedure

What are the mental and physical health risks to a patient’s health who have been a victim of FGM?

Some of the risks to Mental health:

  • Increased risks of newborn death
  • Complications during childbirth
  • Damages a woman’s relationship
  • Affects how a woman feels about herself

Some of the Physical risks:

  • It causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons
  • Violates a girls physical integrity
  • Interferes with the natural function of the female body
  • Removes and damages normal female genital tissue
  • Infertility
  • Cysts
  • Recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections (UTIS)
  • Even death

Where is FGM carried out today?

There is data from WHO (2012) that found27 countries in Africa and the Yemen where FGM is practised. However that is not the end to where this abuse is carried out. There are other countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia in which FGM is practised. Shockingly in the UK these are areas girls may be at risk, London, Birmingham, Oxford, Reading, Sheffield, Manchester, Slough, Crawley, Milton Keynes, Northampton. Although it really can happen anywhere in the UK (NHS choices, 2013).

You can help any girl you know who you are worried about, is at risk, or may be a victim of FGM. The charity NSPCC can be contacted on 0800 028 3550 or emailed at fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk.