This resource was developed in response to requests for clearer direction from central government about the safeguarding responsibilities of local authorities.
It is designed to highlight examples from areas where effective practice has been identified and to emphasise what works in protecting survivors and those at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).
This resource pack was updated:
- in November 2015 to reflect legislative changes
- in May 2016 to reflect the publication of statutory guidance on FGM
- in February 2019 with some minor amendments
- in February 2020, wholesale
It equips commissioners both with the data they need to understand the scale of the problem in their area and with an insight into some of the tools they can use to combat it effectively.
This pack includes:
- case studies where FGM has been experienced by girls and women in the UK
- information on what local authorities and others can do to raise awareness of FGM in their local area
- links to support organisations, clinics and helplines which can help people who think they might be at risk
External links were selected, reviewed and identified as effective practice on combating FGM when this resource was published. However, the Home Office is not responsible for the content of external websites. We do not maintain or update them; we cannot change them; and they may be changed without our knowledge. Other information and effective practice on FGM is freely available and the content on this website is therefore not exhaustive.
If you have documents or material you would like to be included in this resource, please email FGMEnquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk.
Some of the content in the links included in this resource pack contain images or accounts which readers may find distressing.
FGM is illegal in the UK. It is a practice which takes place worldwide in at least 30 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It also takes place within parts of Western Europe and other developed countries, primarily among immigrant and refugee communities.
FGM has been classified by the World Health Organization into 4 types; these are described in more detail on the World Health Organization website.
FGM is a complex issue - despite the harm it causes, some women and men from affected communities consider it to be normal to protect their daughters and their cultural identity.
Some people believe that FGM is a way to ensure virginity and chastity. It is sometimes done to preserve girls from sex outside of marriage and from having sexual feelings. FGM is often claimed to be carried out in accordance with religious beliefs, but it is not supported by any religious doctrine.
FGM is illegal in the UK. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, civil and criminal legislation on FGM is contained in the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”). In Scotland, FGM legislation is contained in the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 was amended by sections 70-75 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.
Criminal law in England and Wales
Under section 1 of the 2003 Act, a person is guilty of an FGM offence if they excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of a girl’s or woman’s labia majora, labia minora or clitoris. To excise is to remove 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). To infibulate is to narrow the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
Offences of FGM
It is an offence for any person (regardless of their nationality or residence status) to:
- perform FGM in England and Wales (section 1 of the 2003 Act)
- assist a girl to carry out FGM on herself in England and Wales (section 2 of the 2003 Act)
- assist (from England or Wales) a non-UK person to carry out FGM outside the UK on a UK national or UK resident (section 3 of the 2003 Act)
If the mutilation takes place in England or Wales, the nationality or residence status of the victim is irrelevant.
Failing to protect a girl from risk of FGM
If an offence under sections 1, 2 or 3 of the 2003 Act is committed against a girl under the age of 16, each person who is responsible for the girl at the time the FGM occurred could be guilty of an offence under section 3A of the 2003 Act.
FGM taking place abroad
It is an offence for a UK national or UK resident (even in countries where FGM is not an offence) to:
- perform FGM abroad (sections 4 and 1 of the 2003 Act)
- assist a girl to carry out FGM on herself outside the UK (sections 4 and 2 of the 2003 Act)
- assist (from outside the UK) a non-UK person to carry out FGM outside the UK on a UK national or UK resident (sections 4 and 3 of the 2003 Act)
An offence of failing to protect a girl from the risk of FGM can be committed wholly or partly outside the UK by a person who is a UK national or a UK resident. The extra-territorial offences of FGM are intended to cover taking a girl abroad to be subjected to FGM.
Any person found guilty of an offence under sections 1, 2 or 3 of the 2003 Act faces up to 14 years’ imprisonment, a fine or both. Any person found guilty of an offence under section 3A of the 2003 Act faces up to 7 years’ imprisonment, a fine or both.
Under provisions of the law which apply generally to criminal offences, it is also an offence to:
- aid, abet, counsel or procure a person to commit an FGM offence
- encourage or assist a person to commit an FGM offence
- attempt to commit an FGM offence
- conspire to commit an FGM offence
Any person found guilty of such an offence faces the same maximum penalty for these offences under the 2003 Act.
Civil law in England and Wales
Under section 5A and schedule 2 of the 2003 Act, provision is made for FGM Protection Orders. An FGM Protection Order is a civil law measure which provides a means of protecting and safeguarding victims and potential victims of FGM. They contain conditions to protect a victim or potential victim. Those might, for example, involve surrendering a passport to prevent the person at risk from being taken abroad to undergo FGM, or a requirement that nobody arranges for FGM to be performed on the person being protected.
Those who may apply for an FGM Protection Order are:
- the person who has undergone or is at risk of FGM
- a local authority
- any other person (for example the police, a teacher, a charity or a family member), with the permission of the court
An application for an order may be made at a Family Court in England and Wales; there is no fee. A court can be asked to consider an application straightaway when necessary, and can make an FGM Protection Order without the respondent(s) being present. Civil legal aid is available to victims, potential victims and third parties who seek to make, vary or discharge an FGM Protection Order, subject to meeting the relevant means and merits criteria. If the conditions in the FGM Protection Order are not followed, this is called a breach. It can be dealt with either by the Family Court as a contempt of court, or as a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
This link shows what you need to do to apply for a FGM Protection Order, including links to the application forms.
Other aspects of the legislation
The 2003 Act also:
- guarantees lifelong anonymity for survivors of FGM (section 4A of the 2003 Act)
- places a mandatory duty on health and social care professionals and teachers to notify the police where they discover that FGM has been carried out on a girl under 18 years of age during the course of their work (section 5B of the 2003 Act)
- provides for statutory guidance on FGM (section 5C of the 2003 Act)
4. Case studies
Some examples of good partnership working between voluntary and community sector organisations and local authorities are available to download, including the following FGM case studies:
- interpreting, awareness-raising and advice
- multi-agency approach
- positive working between midwife and GP
5. Prevalence of FGM in England and Wales
Given the hidden nature of FGM, the exact number of women and girls in the UK who have undergone it is unknown. A 2015 study based on 2011 census data estimated that:
- approximately 60,000 girls aged 0 to 14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM
- approximately 103,000 women aged 15 to 49 and approximately 24,000 women aged 50 and over who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM. In addition, approximately 10,000 girls aged under 15 who have migrated to England and Wales are likely to have undergone FGM
The study also reported that:
- women who have undergone FGM do not only live in urban centres in England and Wales: while many affected women live in large cities where migrant populations tend to be clustered, others are scattered in rural areas
- no local authority area is likely to be free from FGM entirely: in many areas, the estimated prevalence is low, but there are still some women who may be affected by FGM
- London has the highest prevalence rate in England and Wales, with an estimated 2.1% of women affected by FGM
- outside London, the highest estimates were for Manchester, Slough, Bristol, Leicester and Birmingham
NHS Digital publishes statistics about patients with FGM who are treated within the NHS in England. This is crucial in understanding the extent of FGM in England as identified through the delivery of healthcare services.
“Characteristics of children in need” (see tab C3 of the tables document) data, which contains statistics on children referred to and assessed by children’s social services, includes the numbers of occasions in each local authority area in England where FGM was identified at the end of the assessment.
To get an indication of how widespread FGM is in the local area, and what policies or training are in place, local agencies could look at the NHS Enhanced Dataset statistics and relevant research on prevalence.
They can also ask questions to ensure that the best possible support and preventative measures are put in place which are tailored to maximise outcomes. These may include:
- which FGM-affected communities live in the area and how many members of these communities are there?
- is there a policy on FGM, and who is accountable for leading and implementing it?
- which body is responsible for FGM prevention?
- what training is there for professionals such as health, teaching and safeguarding workers?
- what steps have been taken to use the statutory guidance on FGM?
- are designated senior staff for child protection in schools aware of FGM and have they ensured that their staff are aware of the potential risks?
Appendix 2 of this document shows how Coventry City Council estimated the prevalence of FGM in its area.
6. Working together with voluntary and community sector organisations
A coalition of charitable trusts set up the Tackling FGM Initiative which funded community projects. As part of this work, an independent evaluation was carried out, highlighting what works in community engagement activity as well as a best practice guide for communities tackling FGM. Both can be found through the above link.
This study shows the results of focus groups carried out by AFRUCA with a range of African communities in Greater Manchester. It sets out the comments of people in those communities about FGM and what can be inferred from those about the prevalence of FGM in Greater Manchester, and makes recommendations for improvement.
Midaye is a grassroots organisation offering a wide range of services to ethnic minorities in the West London area, with a focus on those who speak Arabic and Somali. It organises and regularly delivers community engagement events and training for the community and other professionals.
7. FGM statutory multi-agency guidance
The Serious Crime Act 2015 amended the FGM Act to provide for statutory guidance on FGM. This guidance is intended to help to:
- further increase awareness of FGM and improve compliance with good practice
- increase referrals and reports to the police
- afford victims and survivors of FGM the greatest possible protection
The statutory guidance was published on 1 April 2016, with some minor updates made in 2018 and 2019. The guidance draws on the previous FGM multi-agency practice guidelines and was updated to capture the legal changes introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2015, new guidance for health professionals, new sources of data on FGM, wider safeguarding responsibilities, duties and resources for professionals, and other minor changes. It also includes information on the FGM mandatory reporting duty.
8. National Helpline
The NSPCC operates a free national FGM helpline, which offers guidance to thousands of people, including professionals. The FGM helpline is staffed by specialised practitioners, who are all trained to identify the risk of FGM. The helpline can offer advice and support: if you are worried about a child who is at risk of FGM, if somebody has already undergone an FGM procedure or if you have any questions regarding FGM.
The helpline is available seven days a week between the following hours: Monday to Friday 8am to 10pm and Saturday and Sunday 9pm to 6pm. You can call and choose to remain anonymous on 0800 028 3550 or email email@example.com.
The action we take to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harms such as FGM is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children and families has a role to play.
More information is available in the following guidance:
- Working together to safeguard children 2018 (England)
- Working together to safeguard children (Wales).
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 provides for the replacement of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) with a more flexible system of multi-agency arrangements, led by the three safeguarding partners: the local authority chief executive; the accountable officer of a clinical commissioning group; and a chief officer of police. While education settings are not named as one of the three key statutory partners, they are an extremely important relevant agency and all local areas must detail how education settings are included in the partnership.
These new safeguarding partnerships play an important role in challenging safeguarding practice and assessing how effective these services are. Every local authority should be part of a safeguarding partnership.
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 provides the statutory guidance in England for the three safeguarding partners, who will be required to make joint safeguarding decisions to meet the needs of local children and families. They will be jointly responsible for setting out local plans to keep children safe and improve their wellbeing, and will be accountable for how well agencies work together to protect children from abuse and neglect. They will also be responsible for identifying serious child safeguarding cases which raise issues of importance in relation to the area and reviewing cases where they consider it appropriate.
The law underpinning the new safeguarding arrangements came into effect on 29 June 2018. Local areas in England had up to 12 months from this date to develop and publish their arrangements. All local areas have now published their plans and all local arrangements should now be being implemented.
Since 31 October 2015, regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales have been subject to an FGM mandatory reporting duty. They are legally required to report ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18s, which they identify in the course of their professional work, to the police. You can read procedural information on the duty and a factsheet (with translations) for communities.
10. Local authorities
Below are some examples of FGM strategies and action taken by local authorities.
The National FGM Centre is a partnership between Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association which aims to achieve a systems change in the provision of services for children and families affected by FGM. It has specialist social workers embedded in a number of local authorities to provide support in cases where FGM, breast flattening or child abuse linked to faith or belief are a concern – for example, providing advice and guidance to frontline professionals and applying for FGM Protection Orders. They have produced this guide for councillors about FGM. The Centre also provides a ‘knowledge hub’ of information and guidance about FGM, trains professionals (see Section 16) and engages with communities.
In 2015 a group of organisations produced a guide for local authorities with recommendations for fighting FGM at a local level.
Bromley Safeguarding Children Partnership have developed an FGM Awareness App which is designed to help professionals who are responsible for child safeguarding to understand FGM, the law, the context in which FGM takes place and their safeguarding responsibilities.
In 2013 Coventry City Council became the first local authority in the UK to support a full council motion to condemn FGM. In 2016 a two year programme of work was commissioned to embed the REPLACE approach, building on existing assets within communities to ensure that they could tackle FGM and continue the work once the funding had ended. The project trained over 3,500 professionals, recruited 90 community champions from 15 affected communities and involved a range of community events which harnessed the commitment of 1,964 people to effect change locally. The local authority carries out ongoing work to raise awareness, train staff and support its partners; it is also developing a Strategic Statement outlining its ongoing aim to end FGM. Coventry uses the 4Ps model (Prepare, Prevent, Protect, Pursue) to tackle FGM. Coventry Haven Women’s Aid also runs a Friendship Group from 10-12 on the first and third Mondays of every month, at Coventry Central Library (Smithford Way), which provides help and support to survivors of FGM.
In 2017 Leeds City Council set up a new FGM strategic multi-agency group partnership which brought together health, education, West Yorkshire Police and third sector agencies to develop a co-ordinated approach to tackling FGM across Leeds. The group organised a conference on FGM in May 2018. They have also supported the Black Health Initiative, who were successful in receiving funding through the Home Office’s counter-extremism Building A Stronger Britain Together programme, with which they reached out to and raised awareness with community groups, and developed a FGM toolkit.
The Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) also implemented an under-18s Pathway to guide professionals more effectively. Leeds is also a pilot area for the national FGM clinics (see Section 12), which saw the opening of the Blossom Clinic in Leeds during October 2019. The clinic is supported by a local mental health charity, Touchstone, who are now providing a mental health and an advocacy service. Leeds has set up and is developing a credible voices group within the community to help raise awareness, educate, identify gaps in service and develop the Leeds response to FGM by feeding into the FGM Steering group who report to the LSCP. They are also working in partnership with Bedfordshire University who will be undertaking an evaluation of the Leeds response to FGM and “honour”-based abuse.
In 2016 Nottingham City Council passed a motion to become the country’s first ‘zero-tolerance’ city of FGM. Partners including police, health, education, social care and the voluntary and community sector together produced an action plan, reviewed quarterly, for ending FGM in a generation in Nottingham. Mojatu Foundation are a key partner driving this agenda forward, providing support and awareness training for partners and offering comprehensive support services for survivors. In 2019 they trained a network of faith and youth ambassadors who work within their communities to raise awareness of zero tolerance, and produced a series of short videos which were released on social media at the end of the school summer team at the same time as letters to schools about the ‘cutting season’ - see https://www.facebook.com/mojatu.foundation/videos/864295247276539/ and https://www.facebook.com/mojatu.foundation/videos/681275118966253/.
Nationally, Operation Limelight is a multi-agency safeguarding operation at the UK border which focuses on harmful practices such as FGM and forced marriage. It is a national operation delivered by Police and Border Force. Delivery partners can include local children’s social care departments, and health and third sector organisations which specialise in responding to harmful practices. Often delivered before and after the three main school holidays, Limelight targets flights connecting to locations where there is high prevalence of FGM and forced marriage. It seeks to raise awareness of harmful practices, identify vulnerability and safeguard those at risk. It also seeks to develop intelligence and identify possible perpetrators.
This document has been designed by the Metropolitan Police Service to assist those engaged on Operation Limelight to have sensitive conversations with passengers regarding FGM.
Avon and Somerset Police work in close collaboration with statutory partners, the third sector and affected communities to develop and refine their response to FGM. There is a particular focus on increasing public awareness through education and health messaging and through the empowerment of women and girls to resist gender-based violence. The cooperation and insight of affected communities are critical to the success of these approaches. Avon and Somerset Police also work with police and partner colleagues from the South-West area to ensure sharing of information, consistency of practice and peer support in responding to FGM and other forms of “honour”-based abuse.
Greater Manchester Police work closely on FGM with local and national partners, including Greater Manchester Combined Authority, to raise awareness and encourage people to report it. The Force has a Strategic Lead for Harmful Practices and has a network of officers across its districts to provide specialist advice and support. Greater Manchester Police support Operation Limelight during the summer period at Manchester International Airport.
Project Azure sits within the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) Continuous Policing Improvement Command and is the MPS strategic response to tackling FGM and other harmful practices such as child abuse linked to faith or belief, forced marriage, “honour”-based abuse and breast flattening. They also provide a coordination role nationally for Operation Limelight. Their mission is to work together with partners to prevent FGM, to identify and protect victims from harm, and to identify and prosecute offenders.
Operation Sentinel is a force-wide operation aimed at enhancing the service provided by West Midlands Police and its partners to victims across the force area who are especially vulnerable. A particular focus has been applied to “honour”-based abuse, FGM, domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Sentinel aims to ensure that police, partner agencies (such as local councils, charities and support services) and the community work together more effectively and share information to fight these crimes.
Police and Crime Commissioners have also undertaken a range of actions in their local areas. Get in touch with your local Police and Crime Commissioner to find out more information.
12. Health in England
FGM has no health benefits and it harms girls and women in many ways. It is important that survivors of FGM receive targeted healthcare support, for both their physical and mental health needs.
For women aged 18 or over who are not pregnant, England has eight National FGM Support Clinics (NFGMSC), which are holistic, community-based clinics which offer a range of support services delivered by a multi-disciplinary team. These include physical assessments and treatment (including deinfibulation if required), counselling, safeguarding information and access to an FGM Health Advocate. There will be onward support to a specialist consultant if additional support is required. There are eight clinics, of which five are in London (Brent, Croydon, Hammersmith, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest); the other three are in Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds. This link provides further details.
Women who are pregnant and who have undergone FGM can access support through their local maternity pathway. This leaflet from the National FGM Centre provides information for women whose FGM has been identified in pregnancy.
Girls under 18 years who have or are suspected to have undergone FGM can access support through the specialist paediatric service at University College London Hospitals (UCLH).
The Oxford Rose Clinic, based at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, is a confidential service providing support for women and girls who have experienced female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C). It holds fortnightly clinics which offer a wide range of types of care to patients.
Midaye offers bilingual health advocacy to FGM-affected communities in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, the Sunflower clinics at Saint Mary’s Hospital and Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital FGM clinics in London, on a weekly basis. It also works in community-based venues, GP practices and other venues as appropriate.
Psychotherapy and psychosocial services
Case histories and personal accounts taken from women show that FGM can be an extremely traumatic experience for girls and women, which stays with them for the rest of their lives.
The World Health Organization has noted that young women receiving psychological counselling for FGM in the UK have reported feelings of betrayal by parents, incompleteness, regret and anger. There is increasing awareness of the severe psychological consequences of FGM for girls and women, which can become evident in mental health problems and drug and alcohol dependency.
A 2005 study from the American Journal of Psychiatry based on research in African communities affected by FGM showed that women who had undergone FGM experienced the same levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as adults who had been subjected to early childhood abuse, and that the majority (80%) of the women suffered from affective (mood) or anxiety disorders.
The fact that FGM is culturally embedded in a girl’s or woman’s community does not protect her against the development of PTSD or other psychiatric disorders. Professionals, particularly those in the health sector, should ensure that mental health support is made available to assist girls and women who have undergone FGM, as well as treatment for any physical symptoms or complications.
Female Genital Trauma: Guidelines for Working Therapeutically with Survivors of Female Genital Mutilation provides recommendations for psychological therapists and counsellors to facilitate therapy with adult women who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).
Examples of community-based FGM services in local areas include:
- the Dahlia Project, run by Manor Gardens Welfare Trust
- FORWARD provide psychological and psychosocial educational support nationally
Information about mental health services in your area can be found on the NHS website.
Reporting and recording FGM
There are three requirements on NHS organisations and professionals to record and share information about FGM and risks relating to it. These are the Mandatory Reporting Duty, the Enhanced Dataset and the FGM – Information Sharing system (FGM-IS).
the FGM Mandatory Reporting Duty is a legal duty provided for in section 5A of the FGM Act 2003 (as amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015). It requires regulated health and social care professionals and teachers to report to the police cases of FGM in girls under 18 if, in the course of their professional duties, they see signs or symptoms indicating that a girl has undergone FGM or if she tells the professional that she has undergone it. Complying with the duty does not breach any confidentiality requirement or other restriction on disclosure which might otherwise apply.
NHS Digital collect data about women and girls who have undergone FGM and who are being cared for by the NHS in England. This is the FGM Enhanced Dataset (see Section 5). The purpose of this data collection is to build a national picture of prevalence, and to support work in the NHS to prevent and treat FGM. The data is collected whenever a woman is identified in a healthcare setting in England as having undergone FGM, and the FGM could have happened at any point in the past. This means that the Enhanced Dataset will record cases which are not eligible for mandatory reporting (for example, where FGM is identified in a patient who is over 18).
the FGM-IS (FGM – Information Sharing system) is a national digital system which shares information within the healthcare record of a girl under 18 - if she has a family history of FGM - between authorised healthcare professionals and administrative staff across England. FGM-IS supports effective early intervention and ongoing safeguarding of girls who are potentially at risk of FGM.
Resources from government:
- information about FGM on the NHS website
- eLearning for Healthcare e-learning modules for healthcare professionals
- FGM risk and safeguarding: guidance for professionals
- commissioning services to support women and girls with FGM: guidance
- information on mandatory reporting for health professionals
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline on child abuse and neglect
Resources from the Royal Colleges:
- resources produced by the Royal College of Nursing: RCN guidance, Travel health services pathway, Sexual health care pathway
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Green-top Guideline on FGM and its Management
- the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s universal FGM flowchart and reporting tool
- ‘Tackling FGM in the UK’: a report and set of recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting FGM, produced by a coalition of Royal Colleges, trade unions and Equality Now
- The NHS London Safeguarding team and the Royal College of GPs worked in collaboration with Building Bridges and Mojatu Foundation to co-produce an FGM easy read.
- The NHS London Safeguarding team, in partnership with Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, Leeds FGM Blossom Clinic, the Sunflower Clinic and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust have developed an animation based on trauma informed care, to support health professionals to have conversations with survivors of FGM regarding cervical screening.
13. Schools in England
From September 2020, Relationships Education will be compulsory for all primary pupils. Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) will be compulsory for all secondary pupils and Health Education will be compulsory for all pupils in state-funded schools.
RSE will cover the concepts of, and laws relating to, sexual consent, sexual exploitation, abuse, grooming, coercion, harassment, forced marriage, rape, domestic abuse and FGM, and how these can affect current and future relationships.
In infant and primary schools, effective sex and relationships education within PSHE can help pupils keep themselves safe from harm through building their confidence to ask for help, learning that their body belongs to them and giving them the language to describe private parts of their body. The Sex Education Forum and PSHE Association have advice and guidance on effective teaching and learning in sex and relationships education and PSHE.
Listed below are some helpful resources and information about FGM for schools and teachers.
Resources from government and the police
- Keeping children safe in education: statutory guidance for schools and colleges
- Working together to safeguard children: England
- Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage - this sets the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to 5 years old
The Guidance for Schools: Safeguarding Young People from Sexual Violence, CSE and Harmful Practices explains what the police do in relation to a range of complex issues which affect young people in schools and colleges, including FGM. The police want to encourage information sharing so that partners within the safeguarding process can work together more effectively.
This guidance covers:
- what the relevant legislation says
- what options police have from both the safeguarding and enforcement perspectives
- what resources are available to give readers a better understanding of each of these highly complex issues
- what vulnerability signs schools could look for
- suggestions as to how schools can respond to these hidden harms within existing referral procedures
The Harmful Practices Schools Charter is a partner-led document which seeks to encourage schools to adopt a preventative approach to educating children on all of these harmful practices, including FGM. Schools are encouraged to sign up to the Charter, as it represents a tangible and direct commitment from them to promote the delivery of inputs in schools which address harmful practices. Schools can use the principles supported by the Charter by incorporating them into lesson plans developed and delivered by school staff or by external providers. It also promotes the appropriate sharing of information through existing referral procedures.
Useful documents for teachers
Integrate UK is a youth-led charity which works towards gender and racial equality. Integrate’s young people deliver free workshops for state schools on FGM, so-called honour-based violence and abuse (HBVA) and other topics. It also provides free PSHE lessons to state schools across the country - email firstname.lastname@example.org for copies of its lesson plans
in the London Borough of Islington pupil lessons, at Year 5 and above, include age appropriate information on FGM as part of the Prevention Programme offered to schools. This Key Stage 3 (Y7) lesson plan, for example, is designed to raise awareness of the practice of FGM and to provide information on how and where young people can get help. Parents are also able to access information about FGM and the support available, through the parent workshops that also form part of the Prevention Programme offer to schools
The National FGM Centre has developed schools guidance on FGM, including a “conversation form” for logging concerns and raising them with pupils and parents and online training for staff in dealing with a disclosure of FGM. They have also produced FGM Flash Cards, designed for professionals to use with other professionals, parent(s)/carer(s), children and young people
Oxford Against Cutting is a charity tackling FGM, forced marriage and female cosmetic genital surgery in the Thames Valley. It has produced this “blue rabbit” lesson plan on sexual harm for children in Key Stage 1
Videos for schools
Integrate UK has produced the following three videos as resources for schools:
- Hannah is the FGM resource aimed at children of primary school age. It allows young people to explore the emotions and challenges faced by girls who may have been subjected to FGM and encourages discussion around the religious, cultural and health implications of the practice
- Everybody’s Business allows young people to place FGM in the wider context of gender-based violence, ensuring that everyone feels justified in speaking out against all forms of abuse and considering how everyone can play a part in ending FGM and other forms of abuse
- Dilemma is a short film in three parts, which encourages young people and teachers to look at the challenges faced by girls around FGM and the potential pitfalls and barriers in the reporting and safeguarding chain
Oxford Against Cutting has produced the following short films for schools:
- Are You Ready to Know? was created by and for secondary school students, and shows a conversation about FGM between a mother from the Gambia and her nine-year old daughter
- Who Can You Tell? is a short film to encourage primary school children to talk to their teacher or school health nurse if they are worried about FGM or sexual harm and includes the NSPCC’s PANTS message
See Section 17 for further films which may be relevant.
Other useful resources for schools and young people
CREATE Youth-Net Training Manual on Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriage - Youth Advocacy in Practice Pilot Toolkit for Practitioners Working on Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriage with Young People. This was produced by FORWARD
The Guardian Project is a project run by NESTAC which coordinates care and support across Greater Manchester for girls and young women (up to 21 years of age) who are affected by or at risk of FGM. Advice, support and guidance are available for all professionals working to safeguard girls and young women from FGM across Greater Manchester. Contact: 07449 651 677 or email@example.com
Norbury School in Harrow delivers specific FGM Awareness lessons across Key Stage Two and explicitly promotes and engages with the NSPCC PANTS programme from Nursery to Year 6. This is used as a springboard into the Key Stage Two lessons which introduces the Norbury “My Body, My Rules” programme. This video explains more about what they do
14. Children’s social care
All children’s social care professionals should work in accordance with the guidelines in ‘Working together to safeguard children’ (2018) in England and ‘Safeguarding children: working together under the Children Act 2004’ (2004) in Wales.
The National FGM Centre has produced a number of useful resources:
- FGM Assessment Tool, including FGM guidance
- FGM Direct Work Toolkit, designed to be used by social workers and family support workers with parent(s)/carer(s), children and young people
- Good practice around medical examinations to determine whether a girl has undergone FGM. This is designed for use by social workers with parent(s)/carer(s) and other professionals
Other resources and information about FGM for children’s social care professionals include:
- Information sharing: advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers
- What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused: advice for practitioners
- Keeping children safe in education: guidance
These materials are designed to help classroom teachers and professionals raise awareness of FGM and explore the stigma and common issues that often surround it.
Resources from government
- ‘Female genital mutilation: the facts’ leaflet - this sets out some of the key facts about FGM
- ‘Statement opposing FGM’ - this outlines what FGM is, the legislation and penalties involved and the help and support available. The statement is often referred to as a health passport, in that, if a woman or girl were to be taken abroad to undergo FGM, she could show this to people in her country of destination to show that FGM is illegal in the UK. This is also available in Amharic, Arabic, Farsi, French, Somali, Swahili, Tigrinyan, Turkish, Urdu and Welsh. Please contact FGMEnquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk if you would like printed copies of either document.
The following resources from other sources are also available:
- “Female Genital Mutilation: An Overview”, produced by the National FGM Centre
- “I Have Rights”, produced by IKWRO – Women’s Rights Organisation
- “What is FGM?” by 28TooMany
- Keeping Your Girls Safe From FGM – a pocket guide on safeguarding children during the summer holidays, which provides information on UK law, keeping girls safe whilst travelling abroad and professionals’ statutory duty to report, as well as adding clarity for parents and guardians
- FGM FAQs: A Campaigner’s Guide for Young People – information for young FGM activists
- Information, Services and Support Guide – a guide for young people who are interested in finding out more about FGM and the support services available
- FGM and Islam – a leaflet developed by FORWARD, the Muslim Council of Britain and Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS. It clarifies that FGM is not a part of the Islamic religion
You can also:
- email BAWSO for their FGM booklet for families
- email the Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation in Britain for their handbook for professionals
Education and training need to be provided for all health and social care professionals who may work with affected women and girls, or those at risk, and with their families. A focus on safeguarding is essential and it is also important to consider the issues of ethnicity, custom, culture and religion in a sensitive manner.
Local Safeguarding Partnerships are responsible for commissioning, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the training, including multi-agency training, provided within their area to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This is in line with their function to develop policies and procedures in relation to training of those persons who work with children or in services affecting the safety and welfare of children. Such policies and procedures may include specific training in relation to FGM. Further information can be found in the ‘Working together to safeguard children’ resource’.
It is recommended that FGM should be a part of all staff training on safeguarding. Any programme of training around FGM should include the following:
- an overview of FGM (what it is, and when and where it may be performed)
- the socio-cultural context, including the incorrect perception that FGM is a religious obligation
- facts and figures
- UK FGM and child protection law
- medical complications
- safeguarding children – the principles to follow when FGM is suspected or has been performed
- the roles and responsibilities of staff
Professionals should receive training specific to their role. Below are some examples of the types of training available. Particular requirements will need to be assessed according to the professional sector.
Training from government and the NHS
- Recognising and preventing FGM, an e-learning tool from the Home Office
- FGM e-learning programme on the eLearning for Healthcare website: NHS organisations and professionals can access this training, which consists of 5 sessions that provide training on all aspects of FGM and standard care provision principles - NHS organisations should consider the training need within their organisation, and implement a training plan accordingly
Training from other sources
The information below has been provided by the organisations themselves. The Home Office has not observed the courses or their materials, so cannot provide assurance as to the content of the courses, and the listing of a course here does not represent an endorsement by the Home Office. Training from other organisations is available.
BAWSO delivers specialist support services in Wales to people from BAME backgrounds who are affected by domestic abuse and other forms of abuse, including FGM, forced marriage, human trafficking and prostitution. In 2010 BAWSO established a female genital mutilation project, and an educational booklet for health professionals is available on request
Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid facilitates training on the issues of domestic violence, forced marriage and FGM for frontline professionals, schools and affected communities
Coventry University developed ‘Petals’, the UK’s first FGM web app, which gives advice on how to get support and deal with FGM. It can also be used by people who want to find out more about FGM and how it might affect them and others
The Dahlia Project, run by Manor Gardens Welfare Trust, is a North London-based project which provides training on FGM to health, social care and education professionals, as well as to students training in relevant professions. Training is delivered by a specialist FGM midwife and a community facilitator from an FGM-affected community, allowing participants to understand why FGM is practised, how it affects women and the role of professionals in preventing it
FORWARD provides an FGM Training Programme, an accredited and tailored developed training programme for professionals on FGM, and FGM awareness sessions for schools, as well as teacher training on FGM and how to respond to it appropriately
Freedom Charity provides training to staff teams and students at primary schools, secondary schools, universities and colleges, as well as public service professionals and community groups across England and Wales. Its provisions include:
- a PSHE Association-accredited FGM/C lesson plan based upon the publication “Cut Flowers”, a children’s novel by Aneeta Prem
- the Freedom Charity free phone App to provide secure advice and emergency contact for victims
- the Red Triangle badge - a national symbol and campaign to raise awareness about FGM
IKWRO – Women’s Rights Organisation provides training on all harmful practices including “honour”-based violence, forced marriage and FGM, to professionals, schools and affected communities
IMKAAN is a UK-based, Black feminist organisation and is the only national second-tier women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls i.e. women and girls who are defined in policy terms as Black and ‘Minority Ethnic’ (BME). As part of its Quality Assurance Framework, Imkaan has developed accredited quality standards and training for working with BME women and girls, and harmful practices, including FGM, forced marriage and “honour-based” violence
Integrate UK is a youth-led charity which works towards gender and racial equality. It provides FGM training to front-line professionals, such as teachers and medical professionals
Islington Council have adapted an FGM Risk assessment tool which was first developed in Croydon and they run quarterly training for professionals, particularly on assessing risk and supporting them to make referrals
Luton All Women’s Centre deliver training and awareness raising sessions in schools, to teachers and other professionals
The National FGM Centre offers half/full day CPD advanced accredited training for all professionals, including community organisations. As well as educating professionals on what FGM is, the training focuses on: how to talk to families, what a referral to social care must include, how to apply for FGM Protection Orders, how to assess risk, how to do direct work with children and families, how to undertake community engagement, and the law. It has also, with Olive Branch Arts, developed “Bloodlines”: an interactive theatre training aimed at all professionals working with girls who could be at risk of or have undergone FGM
The Norbury School in Harrow offers opportunities to observe safeguarding lessons across three phases (Early Years and Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2). This will show those attending how the NSPCC ‘PANTS’ programme, the “My Body, My Rules” programme and FGM awareness lessons are delivered in a classroom to pupils, and the interaction which takes place between teachers and pupils. The school can also provide FGM awareness sessions to adults in their own settings, and has the capacity to plan bespoke training
- Oxford Against Cutting provides workshops and lessons on FGM and forced marriage to staff teams and students at primary schools, secondary schools, universities and colleges in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, as well as professionals and community groups. This is mostly free of charge - email firstname.lastname@example.org. All workshops are delivered by facilitators from affected communities
17. DVDs and videos
To reach communities the Home Office has produced a DVD which features interviews with health professionals, survivors, campaigners, religious leaders and the NSPCC. This DVD will help supported advocates within communities, such as community leaders, to run educational sessions on FGM in trusted environments and to start conversations on the issue. This film is 8 minutes long. Please contact FGMEnquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk if you would like a copy. It is also available online:
In this short film, a survivor of FGM describes her experiences. Please note that this film has some content which viewers may find distressing.
The NHS has produced this 5-minute film ‘FGM is child abuse’ about what FGM is and where to find help if you or someone you know is at risk of it.
These short, powerful animated films were developed by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in collaboration with:
- the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)
- the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP)
- the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)
- health visitors
- survivors of FGM
- non-governmental organisations
- a variety of local community partners
They involved close working with survivors of FGM to ensure that the stories told through the animations remained true to the realities of surviving FGM. Two of the films focus on the role which men must play in ending FGM.
FORWARD has produced a number of films:
Uncomfortable conversations: A Letter to My Husband - this film explores the impact of FGM on women and the difficulty in having the ‘uncomfortable conversation’ around FGM in relationships. It was developed by FORWARD and AIDOS as part of the Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM/C project. (9 minutes)
The True Story of Ghati and Rhobi - the story of two girls resisting their community’s practice of FGM. With the help of community elders, they change the way their community treats a girl’s transition into womanhood by ending the practice. The film is also available in Swahili. (6 minutes)
My Body My Rules: FGM Animation - an animated film aimed at raising awareness of FGM amongst primary school aged children in the UK. It was developed by FORWARD and Animage Films. (4 minutes)
Needlecraft: FGM Animation - An animated film aimed at raising awareness of FGM amongst older audiences. Developed by FORWARD and Animage Films. Please note that this video contains some images which some viewers may find distressing. (4 minutes)
Think Again: The Film - this film follows a 12-year-old’s struggle between family honour and the facts about FGM. On discovering that her mother wants to take her back home to be “cut” she explores the implications FGM has on her life and the misconceptions which explain why the practice persists in the 21st century. (8 minutes)
SafeHands have produced three short films which offer insight into reactions to FGM and can be used by facilitators working with young people in communities to highlight, inform and educate on FGM:
Now that you know, say NO to FGM – Young Women -please note that this video contains some scenes which some viewers may find distressing
BBC Three has produced this film: ‘Things Not To Say To FGM Survivors and Campaigners’.
The Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO) has produced a DVD – “For honour and love” – which includes scenes about control in relationships (“Lost in translation”), female genital cutting (“The holiday”), forced marriages (“A family affair [part 1]”) and “honour” killings (“A family affair [part 2]”). The DVD is supplied with a booklet, which provides a summary of the message of each scene, a number of discussion points for use with groups of young people, and suggestions for further discussion.
For copies, please contact KMEWO:
- by telephone: (020 7263 1027 or 07748 851 125)
- by email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- by post: Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO), Caxton House, 129 St John’s Way, London, N19 3RQ
The following two, longer, international films are also available:
‘The cutting tradition’ was commissioned by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and is narrated by Meryl Streep. Filmed in Ethiopia, Egypt, Djibouti, Burkina Faso and the UK, it looks at the reasons why FGM happens in Africa today. It was produced by SafeHands and FIGO. (47 minutes)
‘True Story’ is a film made for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF by SafeHands. UNFPA and UNICEF are working towards the elimination of female genital mutilation or cutting in the Afar region of Ethiopia. (27 minutes)
See Section 13 for some further films designed specifically for schools.
18. Support organisations, helplines and clinics
Local FGM support services
To find FGM support near you, try the FGM help and advice postcode finder.
NSPCC’s FGM helpline: (see Section 8 for further details)
- telephone: 0800 028 3550
- email: email@example.com
National honour-based abuse helpline, run by Karma Nirvana: 0800 5999 247
This link provides details of the eight community-based National FGM Support Clinics, for adult women who are not pregnant. (See Section 12 for further information.)
The Home Office FGM Unit:
- provides outreach support to local areas to support them in developing their local response to fighting FGM and to raise awareness of the unit
- identifies and highlights examples of effective practice across local areas and professional groups
- promotes (and provides on request) available FGM resources
- provides a free e-learning course in FGM, which anybody can take: Recognising and preventing FGM
- works with the police, Border Force, the Crown Prosecution Service and the College of Policing to improve the identification and prosecution of offenders
- maintains an overview of all Government work to fight FGM and works closely with the voluntary and community sector, survivors and professionals to develop cross-cutting policies and processes.
If you are interested in receiving any outreach support or have any other queries, please email the FGM unit at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that the unit cannot deal with individual cases of FGM.
The Forced Marriage Unit is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit which leads on the Government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals. The Forced Marriage Unit can also assist British nationals overseas who are at risk of FGM. The unit can be contacted on 020 7008 0151 (or, from overseas, 0044 20 7008 0151), or by emailing email@example.com.
You can contact the Police.
- 28 Too Many - email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA)
- Agency for Culture and Change Management UK (ACCM UK)
- BAWSO - email email@example.com, telephone 029 20644 633 or 24-hour helpline 0800 731 8147
- Birmingham Against Female Genital Mutilation
- Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid has a helpline for women and professionals (0808 800 0028, open 9:15am to 5.15pm Monday to Friday) as a way to access their services
- Bristol against Violence and Abuse (BAVA)
- The Dahlia Project FGM Support and Counselling Service - telephone 020 7281 8970
- Daughters of Eve - text them on 0798 303 0488
- Equality Now - telephone 020 7304 6902
- Foundation for Women’s Health Research & Development (FORWARD) - telephone 020 8960 4000
- Freedom Charity - telephone 0845 607 0133 or text 4freedom to 88802
- Greater Manchester FGM Forum - email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- The HALO Project - telephone 01642 683 045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- IKWRO – Women’s Rights Organisation - telephone 020 7920 6460
- Karma Nirvana - telephone 0800 599 9247
- London Black Women’s Health and Family Support (BWHAFS) - telephone 020 8980 3503
- Luton All Women’s Centre (covers Bedfordshire)
- Manor Gardens Health Advocacy Project (North London) - telephone 020 7281 7694
- Midaye (West London) - telephone 020 8969 7456 or email email@example.com
- National FGM Centre
- National Health Service
- Norbury School - leads on FGM in schools in Harrow and Greater London
- Oxford Against Cutting (covers the Thames Valley)
- Savera UK (based in Liverpool) - telephone 0800 107 0726 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Southall Black Sisters (SBS) - telephone 020 8571 0800
- The Vavengers - email email@example.com