Infographic: Orchid Project
130 million women worldwide are living with the impact of female genital cutting, also known as female genital mutilation. What does it involve, and where can you find help online if you know of someone who may be at risk?
What is female genital cutting?
Female genital cutting (also known as FGC, female genital mutilation, FGM or female circumcision) is the forcible removal of a girl’s external genitals.
Worldwide, 130 million women are living with the impact of FGC. Three million girls are at risk of being cut each year in Africa alone. The average age that cutting occurs is between 5 and 8 years old, although it can often take place later. FGC harms human health and contravenes children's and women’s rights. There are severe, negative impacts to cutting a girl. These can include death at the time of the cut or from infection later on, inability to pass urine and menstrual blood, constant pain, difficult sexual intercourse, psychological problems and extreme obstetric complications.
Why does it happen?
FGC happens because it is a social norm held in place by an entire community. To conform to social pressure, parents expose their daughters to this dangerous, unnecessary practice. A girl in a community where girls and women are expected to be cut can face serious social consequences if she has not experienced FGC. She could be seen as unclean, shunned by her community, not be able to find a husband, or generally be unable to participate in community life around her. It is very difficult for individuals or family to make the decision to abandon FGC alone. They will probably be excluded from all community activities. The whole community must be involved in making a decision to stop.
Girls in countries where FGC is practised are not the only ones affected. Girls with family links to those countries could also be at risk. Parents from practicing communities that have emigrated elsewhere may have their daughters flown back to their country of origin to be cut. This is often referred to as ‘holiday cutting’ as this generally happens over school holidays.
By Maggie Burrows
FGC in the UK
London's City University estimates that there are 137,000 girls and women living with FGC, and 144,000 girls at risk of FGC in England and Wales.
The Home Office has identified women from a number of east African communities, including Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, as being at possible risk, as well as Nigeria, the Middle East and Indonesia.
The practice has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but, as of May 2018, no one has ever been convicted of carrying out FGC here, despite NHS figures claiming there were over 5000 new cases reported to hospitals, GPs and clinics in 2016.
Where to find help
If you know of someone in your family who may be at risk
Orchid Project, a UK charity working to end FGC. Their website has resources, facts and news.
If you are worried that a child may be at risk of FGM, contact the NSPCC anonymously on their 24 hour helpline on 0800 028 3550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP.
First published: September 2014
Updated: May 2018