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Advice centre

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) also known as female circumcision or cutting, is a collective term for procedures which include the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs, or injury to the female genital organs, for cultural or other non-medical reasons.


FGM is sometimes called Female Genital Cutting (FGC), Female Circumcision (FC), or excision. However, many communities also use local names to refer to this practice including ‘Tahor’ or ‘Sunna’ (both Arabic terms).

Some traditional and local words used by communities to describe the FGM procedure

Thara, Khitan, Khifad, Megrez, Absum, Mekhnishab, Kutairi, Kutairi was ichana, Ibi/Ugwu, Sunna, Bond/Sonde, Guimiin, Halalays, Godiin, Khifad, Tahoor, Bagne, Gadja, Fanaduidi Mindjer, Niaka, Kuyango, Musolula karoola.

FGM is medically unnecessary, is extremely painful, and has serious health consequences, both at the time of the procedure, and in later life. It can also be psychologically damaging.

A number of girls die as a direct result of the procedure, from blood loss or infection. In the longer term, women who have undergone some form of FGM are twice as likely to die in childbirth, and four times more likely to give birth to a still born child.

FGM is classified into four major types. Different regions and communities practice various forms of the types listed below.

Type 1 – 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).This is extremely painful and distressing, damages sexually sensitive skin and is an infection risk.

Type 2 – 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). This is extremely painful and distressing, damages sexually sensitive skin and is an infection risk.

Type 3 – 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. This is extremely painful and distressing, damages sexually sensitive skin and is an on-going infection risk. The closing over of the vagina and the urethra leaves women with a very small opening in which to pass urine and menstrual fluid. The opening can be so small that it needs to be cut open to be able to have sexual intercourse. Cutting is also needed to give birth and can cause complications which harm both mother and baby

Type 4 – Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

Female genital mutilation is physical abuse, and while it is perceived by parents not to be an act of hate, it is harmful, it is child abuse and it is unlawful. It has long lasting significant implications for those who have the procedure performed on them.

Anyone with any information

  • about children believed to be at risk of FGM,
  • about children believed to have been subject to FGM,
  • about people believed to be carrying out FGM,

are urged to contact West Midlands Police on 101, or alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. The NSPCC also have a free anonymous FGM helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be contacted on 0800 028 3550.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it

  • illegal to practice FGM in the UK
  • illegal to assist a girl to mutilate her own genitalia
  • illegal to take girls who are British Nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM whether or not it is lawful in that country;
  • Illegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad
An offence under this act has a maximum penalty of up to 14 years in prison and/or a fine.

FGM is illegal in England and Wales under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. This act was amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015 and now includes the following:

  • It’s now an offence to fail to protect a girl from the risk of FGM
  • Power to prosecute over FGM offences committed abroad by UK nationals and those habitually (as well as permanently) resident in the UK
  • Lifelong anonymity for victims of FGM
  • FGM Protection Orders which can be used to protect girls at risk
  • A mandatory reporting duty which requires specified professionals (including teachers and regulated health and social care professionals) to report ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18s to the police.

Helpful resources

Worried about FGM or want to know more? Click on some of the links below for helpful guidance.

West Midlands Police FGM posters for download





West Midlands Police FGM leaflets

Contact details for local and national support

African Well Women’s Clinic (Birmingham Heartlands Hospital) - 0121 424 3909

Allies Network – 07506 398865

Birmingham Against FGM

Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid –0808 800 0028

Bharosa Domestic Abuse Service (for ethnic minority women, particularly those from a South Asian background) - 0121 303 0368 or 0121 303 0369 email

Care for Women and Girls – 07799 909523 or email

Celestine Celest Community Organisation – 07517 227911 or email

Coventry Haven – 02476 444 077 or email

CRASAC (Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre) - 02476 277777

Muslim Women’s Network - 0121 236 9000 or 07415 206936 or email


FORWARD UK - 07834 168 141 or email

Daughters of Eve – text 07983 030 488

NSPCC Free 24hour FGM Helpline - 0800 028 3550 or email

More information on Honour Abuse