Female Genital Mutilation: A Hidden Crime


Despite female genital mutilation (FGM) having been a crime in the UK since 1985, between January and March this year there were 70 newly recorded cases in the South West commissioning region, covering Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Devon and Cornwall.

Of those, 66 cases were in Bristol.

In today’s post on Bristol Mum, Sharon Copsey, regional head of services for the NSPCC, discusses this issue and what can be done about it.

Despite the religious, social or cultural reasons sometimes given for FGM, the procedure does not enhance fertility and it does not make childbirth safer. It is most commonly carried out on girls aged between five and eight, and can cause severe and long-lasting damage to physical and emotional health.

It is child abuse and it is a criminal offence. The brutal practice must stop.

There are four types which range from pricking or cauterizing the genital area, through partial or total removal of the clitoris, cutting the lips (the labia) and narrowing the vaginal opening.

As well as the immediate pain and risk of infection, victims can suffer more long-term problems such as infertility, post-traumatic stress disorder and complications during labour.

Summer holidays are referred to as the ‘cutting season’, as some families use the time to take their daughter abroad for the treatment.

According to stats from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, in the three months between January and March this year there were 66 newly recorded cases of FGM in Bristol.

Despite these shocking statistics, it’s a problem that rarely makes the headlines.

In total 1,242 new cases were recorded across the country in the same time frame.

We should all be aware of the signs of FGM – a girl might say she is being taken ‘home’ to visit family, she could be attending a special occasion to ‘become a woman’ or an older female relative may be visiting the UK.

It is not always straightforward to assess a girl’s risk, but if anyone is worried they should get advice.

Our helplines are for everyone, not just girls at risk. If you are worried about someone call the NSPCC’s FGM helpline on 0800 0283550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk.


FGM: The Facts

  • FGM is a hidden crime, so it is unknown how common it is exactly
  • It is usually performed by someone with no medical training. Girls are given no anaesthetic, no antiseptic treatment and are often forcibly restrained
  • It is thought 23,000 girls under 15 could be a risk of FGM in England and Wales, and nearly 60,000 could be living with the consequences of the procedure
  • The most common age for a girl to have FGM is between five and eight
  • Girls are more at risk if FGM has been carried out on their mother, sister or a member of their extended family
  • More than 1,700 victims of FGM in the UK were referred to specialist clinics in the last two years
  • The NSPCC has responded to more than 900 contacts about FGM since June 2013. More than a third of these contacts have resulted in a referral to the police or children’s services

Please call the NSPCC’s FGM helpline on 0800 0283550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk if you are worried about someone.