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Lewisham Safeguarding Children Board

Lewisham Safeguarding Children Board

Email: safeguardingboard@lewisham.gov.uk

Tel: 020 8314 3396

Female Genital Mutilation / Cutting

What is FGM?

FGM is a form of violence against women and girls (VAWG). It comprises of all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It may be carried out at any time in a girls life, from baby to womanhood. It can be seen as a pathway to womanhood and can also be a condition of marriage. Some communities believe that if a girl has not had it done she is deemed unhealthy, unclean, or unworthy. Parents can have very strong beliefs, genuinely thinking they are doing the right thing for their daughter, and in communities where all females have the procedure it can seem normal, then making it very difficult for girls to challenge this tradition. 

It is sometimes also known as female circumcision. Other local terms are:  Tahoor, Absum, Halalays, Khitan, Ibi, Sunna, Gudnii, Bondo, Kutairi. It is important to let the female refer to the term she understands it to be called. FGM is sometimes incorrectly believed to be an Islamic practice. This is not the case and the Islamic Shari’a Council, the Muslim College and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) have condemned the practice of FGM.  The majority of cases of FGM are thought to take place between the ages of 5 and 8 and therefore girls within that age bracket are at a higher risk.

Mandatory Reporting Duty - What are ‘known cases?

Known cases are those where either a girl informs the person that an act of FGM – however described – has been carried out on her, or where the person observes physical signs on a girl appearing to show that an act of FGM has been carried out and the person has no reason to believe that the act was, or was part of, a surgical operation within section 1(2)(a) or (b) of the FGM Act 2003. The duty applies to all regulated professionals working within health or social care, and teachers. There is mandatory requirement to report to police cases of ‘visually identified’ or ‘verbally disclosed’ cases of FGM in girls under 18. The mandatory reporting does not apply to suspected cases or where a child might be ‘at risk’ of FGM. The mandatory reporting is for ‘known’ cases only.

It is Illegal

In the UK, anyone found guilty of an FGM offence or of helping somebody commit one, faces up to 14 years in prison, a fine, or both, regardless of where in the world the FGM takes place. Anyone found guilty of failing to protect a girl from risk of FGM faces up to 7 years in prison, a fine, or both.

Recognising Signs & Symptoms of Possible FGM Cases

A girl may;

  • Say an older female relative is coming especially to see her.
  • Say that she is being taken "home" for a special visit to become a woman.
  • become withdrawn following this "holiday" and/or there may be a change in her behavior.
  • Run away from home, or start truanting from school.
  • Have difficulty standing or sitting.
  • Spend longer in the toilet than usual; because of bleeding and/or infection.
  • Have frequent vaginal, urinal, or pelvic infections
  • Blood born infections, including Hepatitis B & C, and HIV.
  • She may be reluctant to undergo any medical examinations.
  • May ask for help, but not be explicit about the problem due to fear or embarrassment
  • Develop emotional and mental health problems.
  • Self harm, or be showing signs of child abuse.

Long Term Health Effects

Many girls and women are not aware of the lifetime effects FGM can have on them; with difficulty in child birth (sometimes ending in death), infertility, sexually difficulties, vaginal infections, painful periods, cysts and abscesses, and difficulty controlling her bladder. This is a procedure that cannot be reversed. FGM also involves a long term emotional impact including, anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.

FGM is classified into four categories:

  • Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce
  • Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora
  • Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris
  • Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area

Procedure in Lewisham 

The LSCB Partnership has endorsed a local FGM Guidance to assist you with your responsibilities.

At-Risk Cases of FGM

Report to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) Team, on 020 8314 6660, and follow this up in writing within 24 hours. This would relate to situations whereby the child victim is at risk of FGM being performed, suspected of being performed or suspected of having been performed. In these scenarios, normal safeguarding procedures and existing pathways would apply.

An FGM Protection Order offer a legal means to protect and safeguard victims and potential victims of FGM.  Please see the Fact Sheet for more information.

Reporting Known Cases in Lewisham

“Mandatory Reporting Duty” – this is the reporting system, which would relate to known cases of FGM that have occurred already. “Known” would be where it has been directly disclosed by the victim to the professional that they have had FGM or where the professional has visually identified FGM. In London the only reporting gateway for mandatory reports is via 101.   You should also inform the MASH Team of your report.

Mandatory Reporting Procedure: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mandatory-reporting-of-female-genital-mutilation-procedural-information 

National guidance: FGM – Guidelines to protect women and Girls

Support is Available for Girls and Women at Risk

You can obtain a Statement Opposing Female Genital Mutilation for girls and women. It is in a variety of languages on the GOV.UK website.  Girls and Women can also contact;

  1. Athena VAWG Service on 0800 112 4052, email lewishamvawg@refuge.org.uk, website www.refuge.org.uk/Athena
  2. African Advocacy Foundation on 020 8698 447, website http://www.africadvocacy.org/
  3. NSPCC FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550, email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk
  4. FGM Every Bodys Biz website provides advice, support and a forum to hear the voice of the girl/woman. You can also obtain up-to-date information on FGM Health Specialists and organisations working on FGM, http://fgm-every-bodys-biz.co.uk/ 
  5. If a girl or woman has been taken abroad phone the Foreign & Commonwealth Office immediately on 020 7008 1500. 

E-Learning

For further information on FGM we would encourage all professionals to view the excellent Home Office training package on FGM which can be found at:  www.fgmelearning.co.uk/

Useful Links:

National FGM Centre: http://nationalfgmcentre.org.uk/

FGM Map to give information about county of Origin and their practice: http://nationalfgmcentre.org.uk/world-fgm-prevalence-map/

FGM Health Passport- Statement opposing FGM guidance in different languages. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statement-opposing-female-genital-mutilation

Links to information about FGM Orders:- 

http://www.gscb.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=64012&p=0

https://barnardosfgm.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/23/kw/FGM%20order

https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/family/formspage

Guidance and language to consider using when dealing with FGM cases:-

https://barnardosfgm.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/106/kw/FGM%20order/related/1

For contact details go to: What to do if you are worried about the Safety of a child – professionals

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