Female genital mutilation

What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?

FGM includes “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” (World Health Organisation). Religious, social or cultural reasons are motivations given for FGM.  FGM is a form of child abuse and violence against women and girls.  It can have serious short and long-term health and well-being implications including:

  • Infections
  • Blood loss
  • Shock
  • Severe pain
  • Emotional trauma

FGM and the law

FGM is illegal in Northern Ireland as stipulated under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and the Serious Crime Act 2015.  Anyone who commits FGM faces up to 14 years in prison, a fine, or both.  Anyone found guilty of failing to protect a girl from risk of FGM faces up to 7 years in prison, a fine, or both.

This legislation also allows you to apply to a court to obtain a protection order if:

  • You or someone you know is a victim of FGM
  • You or someone you know is in danger of FGM

Warning signs

There are a number of indicators a girl could have been subjected to FGM.  Examples can be:

  • significant changes in behaviour
  • absenteeism from school, particularly after a trip to an FGM practising country
  • spending long periods of time out of the classroom
  • spending longer than usual going to the toilet
  • avoiding going to the toilet
  • discomfort when sitting down
  • avoiding physical exercise and PT classes
  • frequent menstrual or urinary infections

Children are often unaware that FGM is going to take place. Unfortunately this means there may be few warning signs before it happens. However, sometimes children are made aware in advance, which can lead to a change in their behaviour, such as seeking advice or help from professionals and friends.

How to report FGM

Police: 101 or 999 in an emergency

Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111

HSC Gateway teams:

Belfast Trust – 028 90 507 000

South Eastern Trust – 0300 1000 300

Northern Trust – 0300 1234 333

Southern Trust – 0800 783 7745

Western Trust – 028 71 314 090

Outside of normal working hours (Friday 5pm to Monday 9am) and in an emergency:

Regional Emergency Social Work Service – 028 95 049 999

Support available

NSPCC’s FGM Helpline: 0800 028 3550   email: fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk

Childline: 0800 1111

ASSIST NI: Advocacy service for victims of domestic and sexual abuse  www.assistni.org.uk