Policy

Improving the lives of girls and women in the world's poorest countries

Supporting detail:

Helping to end female genital mutilation for girls and women in Africa

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), sometimes known as cutting (FGC), is an extremely harmful practice that affects up to 140 million women around the world, with 3 million girls in Africa at risk of undergoing it each year.

The World Health Organisation defines it as 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. The most extreme form of FGM (which is carried out on 90% of girls in Somalia) involves cutting out all the external genitalia and sewing up the girl’s vagina. Girls are cut open, often with a razor blade by the mother-in-law, on the marriage night to enable sexual penetration. In some countries FGM is carried out on newborns, and in others during adolescence. FGM results in severe pain, serious problems in childbirth, physical disability and psychological damage. In the worst cases, it can result in death.

We have a chance to end FGM within a generation. There is now strong African leadership and real momentum for change on FGM across the continent. Increasing numbers of women and men in communities, traditional and religious leaders, and national policy makers are driving a movement to end the practice.

In December 2012 a UN General Assembly resolution, led by the Africa Group, called for a global ban on the practice. In March this year the UK government made the biggest ever international investment in eradicating FGM.

What we’re doing

We believe girls and women have the right to have control over their own bodies and live a life free of the fear of violence. Britain is working to support efforts to end FGM through a new programme to reduce the practice by 30% in at least 10 countries in the next 5 years. The initiative will:

  • support work to end FGM in at least fifteen countries by working directly within local communities
  • work with governments and traditional leaders to back laws and policies to end FGM
  • fund research into the most cost-effective approaches to ending FGM, to make sure our work has the maximum impact
  • support diaspora communities in the UK to help change practices in their countries of origin
  • galvanise a global movement to increase attention and funding toward ending FGM

Find out more about our programme by reading the business case Towards ending FGM/C in Africa and beyond.

Over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK each year, and it is estimated 66,000 women have undergone the practice. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it illegal to practice FGM in the UK or take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents abroad for FGM.

Find out more about what the UK government is doing to tackle FGM in the UK.

Who we work with

We will work with a range of partners including the United Nations Joint Programme on FGM/C managed by UNICEF and UNFPA. We will be starting a tender process soon for the social change communications component of the programme. You can find out more by registering on our supplier portal.

More information

Stats and facts

  • FGM is a form of violence against women and girls and is a violation of their human rights.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
  • Over 95% of all FGM is in Africa.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.

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