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 more than 125 million girls and women in the world today. An estimated 30 million more girls are at risk over the next decade in Africa alone.

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 and a 2014 reaffirmation calls on us all to do more. The UK government made the biggest ever international investment in eradicating FGM, with a flagship programme of £35 million over 5 years, and an additional £12 million commitment in Sudan.

What we’re doing

We believe girls and women have the right to control their own bodies and live a life free from 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 15 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

Girl Summit 2014 and #YouthForChange

On 22 July 2014, the UK hosted a Girl Summit with UNICEF to galvanise global commitment and support Southern-led efforts to end both FGM and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) in a generation. The Girl Summit Charter so far has over 490 signatories, including 42 governments, and 180 commitments on ending either FGM and/or CEFM have been made so far.

Commitments can be tracked here.

In advance of Girl Summit, the UK hosted #YouthForChange on 19 July 2014, an event by young people for young people to ignite action around girls’ rights, particularly FGM and CEFM. It brought together nearly 200 young campaigners from the UK and around the world including Pakistan, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and many other countries to share their experiences as survivors and campaigners.

You can follow these campaigns on Twitter at @GirlSummit and @YouthForChange.

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, The Girl Generation and the Population Council.

You can find out more about our funding for ending FGM by visiting our development tracker, funding finder or registering on our supplier portal.

FGM in the UK

In England and Wales, an estimated 137,000 girls and women are living with FGM and 60,000 girls under the age of 15 could be at risk of FGM. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it illegal to practise 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.

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.