Global Resources

Tackling FGM in the UK: intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting

Publisher: The Royal College of Midwives
Publication Date: Nov 2013
The number of communities affected by female genital mutilation (FGM) is growing, and with increased migration from countries where FGM is practiced, more girls in the UK are at risk. The authors of this publication counter the notion of it simply being an 'exotic' or 'cultural' ritual, depicting FGM instead as cruel act perpetrated by parents and extended family members upon young girls, resulting in death, disability, physical and psychological harm.

The UK has specific legislation that outlaws FGM and enables support professionals and institutions to intervene to safeguard the health and wellbeing of children who are suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. However, there is a growing consensus that the system is failing to protect girls from FGM, and more needs to be done in the UK to intervene and safeguard girls at risk. At the local level, FGM is still not fully integrated into the child protection system. UK data systems do not consistently record information on FGM, nor is information shared formally and systematically between professionals and organisations. Additionally, there have been no prosecutions in the UK concerning FGM. After explaining background information as well as legal and policy responses to FGM in the UK, this report presents recommendations for government, lead health social care and education agencies, law enforcement officials and others to raise greater awareness of the need to intervene early to prevent FGM; and integrate FGM prevention into national and local strategies for safeguarding children from FGM abuse.

Nine key principles are highlighted, and detailed recommendations for action are also provided. This publication highlights the following recommendations for tackling FGM in the UK:
  1. FGM is child abuse, and must be integrated into all UK child safeguarding procedures in a systematic way.
  2. The NHS should document and collect information on FGM and its associated complications in a consistent and rigorous way.
  3. The NHS should develop protocols for sharing information about girls at risk of – or girls who have already undergone – FGM with other health and social care agencies, the Department for Education and the police.
  4. Develop the competence, knowledge and awareness of frontline health professionals to ensure prevention and protection of girls at risk of FGM. Also ensure that health professionals know how to provide quality care for girls and women who suffer complications of FGM.
  5. Health professionals should identify girls at risk of FGM as early as possible. All suspected cases should be referred as part of existing child safeguarding obligations. Sustained information and support should be given to families to protect girls at risk.
  6. All girls and women presenting with FGM within the NHS must be considered as potential victims of crime, and should be referred to the police and support services.
  7. The NHS and local authorities should systematically measure the performance of frontline health professionals against agreed standards for addressing FGM, and publish outcomes to monitor the progress of implementing these recommendations.
  8. Empowering and supporting affected girls and young women (both those at risk and survivors) should be a priority public health consideration; health and education professionals should work together to integrate FGM into prevention messages (especially those focused on avoiding harm).
  9. The UK government should implement a national public health and legal awareness publicity campaign on FGM, similar to previous domestic abuse and HIV campaigns.