What to do if you’re worried about FGM

Girl looks out to the distance

FGM is a painful and illegal process carried out on young girls.

(T/W) Article contains references to Female genital mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is a painful and illegal process that involves cutting and removing a girl’s external genitalia. But why does FGM happen, and what can you do if you’re worried about it?

FGM, sometimes called female circumcision, is an illegal procedure carried out on young women and girls. This harmful practice involves removing or altering a girl’s genitals, which can cause long term damage to her emotional and physical health.

The procedure is usually carried out by an older woman with no medical training, and the girls aren’t usually given anaesthetic to help with the pain.

The side effects of FGM include:

  • Bleeding.
  • Intense pain.
  • Infections.
  • Problems going to the toilet.
  • Difficulty having sex.
  • Difficulty giving birth.
  • Problems with mental health, such as suffering from anxiety or depression.

Types of FGM

These harmful procedures are typically classified into four major types:

Type 1: The partial or total removal of the clitoral glans (the visible part of the clitoris, which is very sensitive), and/or the prepuce/clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoral glans).

Type 2: The partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without removal of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva).

Type 3: The narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal, formed by the cutting and repositioning of the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoral prepuce/clitoral hood and glans.

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

Why does FGM happen?

FGM is practiced in areas of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia as well as in countries where migrants from FGM affected communities live. The reasons given for practicing FGM are that it is a cultural tradition that all girls need to follow; a rite of passage into womanhood.

Despite this, FGM is illegal in the UK and most other countries. There are no religious or medical reasons for FGM, and no potential health benefits.

I think my family wants me to get it

There can be a lot of pressure from families and the wider community to undergo FGM. This can often make you feel frightened and alone but you’re not alone in this. If you believe your family are arranging for you to have the procedure done, either in the UK or abroad, you can:

If you’re going abroad and are worried about your safety, take this government statement with you in your passport. Show it to your family to explain to them FGM is a criminal offence. If you’re already abroad and worried about FGM you can call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on +44 (0)20 7008 1500.

I’ve had FGM and I don’t know what to do

If you are feeling unwell and in pain seek medical attention immediately. There are specialist medical services for women and girls who have undergone FGM. Check with your local GP to see if these services are available in your area. If it’s an emergency call 999 or go to A&E.

FGM is a distressing and traumatic experience that can massively affect your mental health. If you need to talk to someone about it, you can call Childline for support and advice.

I’m worried my family will get in trouble if I speak out

Girls are often pushed to get FGM by members of their own family, making it hard to figure out how to feel towards them. It is common to feel:

  • Like you want to please your parents and make them happy.
  • Worried about what will happen to your family if you speak out.
  • Scared that you can’t tell them how you feel.
  • Fearful that your family and community will turn against you if you don’t do it.

It’s normal to feel this way, but it’s important to make sure that you are safe and free from the threat of FGM. Speak to a trusted adult or one of the services listed at the end of the article for advice and support.

I’m worried my friend has had FGM

You might feel concerned that your friend has had FGM if they:

  • Seem down or upset.
  • Have trouble walking.
  • Have trouble going to the toilet.
  • Are in a lot of pain.

If you are concerned about your friend, try talking to them alone. FGM is a distressing issue so you can always talk to a trusted adult, such as a teacher or doctor, for advice and support.

How to get support on FGM

If you need advice and support on FGM you can contact:

  • NSPCC has a dedicated FGM helpline. Email on [email protected] or call for free on 0800 028 3550.
  • FORWARD works to end violence against women. Call them on 0208 960 4000 on Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm or email on [email protected].
  • Daughters of Eve work to protect the mental and physical health rights of women and girls affected by FGM.
  • Bawso supports women and girls affected by FGM in Wales.
  • 28 Too Many work to end FGM. It has information on FGM and where to get support.
  • The Dahlia Project is a specialist service for women who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation. The service offers therapeutic support groups for FGM survivors. For more information call 0207 281 9478.

You can talk to Childline about anything. Call them for free on 0800 1111 or visit their website.

Next Steps


abuse| fgm

By Holly Turner

Updated on 03-May-2023