Female Genital Mutilation
My family told me it was normal. A rite of passage. When I was eight my parents took me abroad and had me cut, it was the most painful thing in the world. When I was at secondary school Freedom Charity came and gave a talk on Female Genital Mutilation.
With Freedom’s support Grace was able to ensure the safety of her younger sisters so that they did not suffer the same fate. With your help we can end Female Genital Mutilation in our lifetime.
The red triangle campaign, a small symbol that could help eradicate Female Genital Mutilation FGM/C in a generation. Wearing a small downward facing red trianglewith mark a symbol to say you want to end Female Genital Mutilation. That we stand together in fighting the inequality against women and girls.
1. The Law
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Mandatory Reporting – The professional duty
From 31st October 2015 all regulated professionals (health, teachers and social workers ) are required to report known cases of FGM or disclosed cases of FGM direct to the police.
Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003
The Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act came into force on 3 March 2004 and was amended by sections 70 to 75 Serious Crime Act 2015. This guidance reflects the changes made by sections 70 to72 which came into force on 3 May 2015.
The Act refers to “girls”, though it also applies to women. The offences are:
It is a criminal offence to excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of a girl’s labia majora, labia minora or clitoris, but no offence is committed by an approved person who performs – a surgical operation on a girl which is necessary for her physical or mental health, or a surgical operation on a girl who is in any stage of labour, or has just given birth, for purposes connected with the labour or birth.
The following are approved persons:
- in relation to an operation falling with subsection (2)(a) a registered medical practitioner,
- in relation to an operation falling within subsection (2)(b) a registered medical practitioner, a registered midwife, or a person undergoing a course of training with a view to becoming such a practitioner or midwife
- There is also no offence committed by a person who –
- performs a surgical operation falling within subsection (2)(a) or (b) outside the United Kingdom, and
- in relation to such an operation exercises functions corresponding to those of an approved person
- For the purpose of determining whether an operation is necessary for the mental health of a girl it is immaterial whether she or any other person believes that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.
- There is also no offence committed by a person who –
A person is guilty of an offence if he aids, abets, counsels or procures a girl to excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of her own labia majora, labia minora or clitoris.
- A person is guilty of an offence if he aids, abets, counsels or procures a person who is not a United Kingdom resident to do a relevant act of female mutilation outside the United Kingdom
- An act is a relevant act of female genital mutilation if
- it is done in relation to a United Kingdom national or a United Kingdom resident, and
- it would, if done by such a person, constitute an offence under section 1
- But no offence is committed if the relevant act of female genital mutilation
- is a surgical operation falling within section 1(2)(a) or (b), and
- it is performed by a person who, in relation to such an operation, is an approved person or exercises functions corresponding to those of an approved person.
Section 72 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 inserts section 3A into the FGM Act to create an offence of failing to protect a girl from FGM, with effect from 3 May 2015.
- If an offence of FGM is committed against a girl under the age of 16, each person who is responsible for the girl at the time that FGM occurred will be guilty of an offence
- For the purposes of this section a person is responsible for a girl in the following circumstances:
- The first case is where the person:
- has parental responsibility for the girl, and
- has frequent contact with her.
- The second case is where the person:
- is aged 18 or over, and
- has assumed (and not relinquished) responsibility for caring for the girl in the manner of a parent.
2. Definition Key facts
- Female Genital Mutilation includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons
- the procedure has no health benefits for girls and women
- 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
- more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where Female Genital Mutilation is concentrated (1)
- Female Genital Mutilation is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
- Female Genital Mutilation is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
Female Genital Mutilation comprises 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 practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18% of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and the trend towards medicalisation is increasing.
Female Genital Mutilation is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types:
- Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris)
- Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina)
- Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris
- Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterising the genital area.
No health benefits, only harm
FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue.
Long-term consequences can include:
- recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections
- an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths
- the need for later surgeries. For example, the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening (type 3 above) needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth. Sometimes it is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing and repeated both immediate and long-term risks.
Procedures are mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15, and occasionally on adult women. In Africa, more than three million girls have been estimated to be at risk for FGM annually.
More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated (1).
The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and among migrants from these areas.
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