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FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation. It is sometimes called female circumcision, cutting or sunna. This is the partial or complete removal of a girl's external genitals (private parts). Sometimes the vagina is also sewn up too. FGM is a tradition practiced on girls in 28 African countries and parts of the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.


There are 4 types of FGM:

  • Type 1 – clitoridectomy – removing part or all of the clitoris.
  • Type 2 – excision – removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (larger outer lips).
  • Type 3 – infibulation – narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
  • Other harmful procedures to the female genitals, which include pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping and burning the 

FGM has no known health benefits and can be extremely dangerous; sometimes leading to death. Religious, social or cultural reasons are sometimes given however FGM is illegal in the UK – it’s also illegal to arrange for someone to be taken out of the country to be cut.




The immediate effects and risks of FGM are:

  • Severe pain
  • Shock 
  • Bleeding
  • Wound infections, including tetanus and gangrene, as well as blood-borne viruses such as HIVhepatitis B and hepatitis C
  • Inability to urinate
  • Injury to vulval tissues surrounding the entrance to the vagina 
  • Damage to other organs nearby, such as the urethra (where urine passes) and the bowel 

·         FGM can sometimes cause death.


The long term effects and risks of FGM are:


  • Chronic vaginal and pelvic infections
  • Abnormal periods
  • Difficulty passing urine, and persistent urine infections
  • Kidney impairment and possible kidney failure
  • Damage to the reproductive system, including infertility
  • Cysts and the formation of scar tissue
  • Complications in pregnancy and newborn deaths 
  • Pain during sex and lack of pleasurable sensation
  • Psychological damage, including low libido, depression and anxiety (see below) 
  • Flashbacks during pregnancy and childbirth
  • The need for later surgery to open the lower vagina for sexual intercourse and childbirth



Those most at risk of FGM are girls between infancy and the age of 15 – majority of cases occur between the ages of 5 and 8.

If you are worried someone you know may be at risk of FGM, or has already gone through FGM and may need some support; these are the things to look out for!


PRE-FGM Procedure

·         Someone absent from school for a long period of time, usually either side of the school holidays, with no reason/ you are going to another country for a long period of time and are unsure why
·         If a mother/family member has already gone through FGM – as this means someone in the family believes in FGM
·         If a family belongs to a community where FGM is practiced
·         If someone is talking about having a ‘special procedure’ or ‘becoming a woman’


Post-FGM Procedure

·         Continued prolonged absence from school or other physical activities
·         Someone returns from a long stay away and their behaviour has changed
·         Bladder or menstrual (period) problems – like needing to go the toilet a lot or spending a long time in the toilet
·         Having difficulty sitting still, or complaining about a pain between their legs
·         Someone talking about something somebody did but they are not allowed to talk about



If you are worried about FGM happening to you or a friend, or have gone through FGM and feel you need support, here are some people and places you can go for support:

  • Speak to a teacher, tutor, SAM or adult outside of your family that you trust
  • Speak to the school nurse – (you can make an appointment through your SAM)
  • Go to the Help Page on this website for Childline numbers


Daughter’s of Eve is a great charity set up to support young girls experiencing or at risk of FGM: