Trisha Shetty

Female genital mutilation in the United Kingdom

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Female genital mutilation in the United Kingdom

Female genital mutilation in the United Kingdom refers to the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia of women and girls living in the UK. According to Equality Now and City University London, an estimated 103,000 women and girls aged 15–49 were thought to be living with female genital mutilation (FGM) in England and Wales as of 2011.


FGM was outlawed in the UK by the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985, which made it an offence to perform FGM on children or adults. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 made it an offence to arrange FGM outside the country for British citizens or permanent residents, whether or not it is lawful in the country to which the girl is taken.

To date there have been no convictions. The first prosecutions took place in 2015 against a doctor for performing FGM and another man for aiding and abetting; both were found not guilty.


The diaspora communities in the UK thought to be at high risk of FGM include those from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan. The largest is the Somalia diaspora, with nearly 42,000 women and girls in the UK believed to be affected as of 2011. FGM has a high prevalence in several of these countries, including the most severe form, FGM Type III. Girls from communities in which FGM is commonplace are often taken to their countries of origin during the school summer holidays in order to undergo the procedure. This period of the year is known as the "cutting season".

In 1983 Efua Dorkenoo, author of Cutting the Rose (1994), founded the Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (FORWARD), a British NGO that supports women who have experienced FGM and tries to eliminate the practice. Dorkenoo received an OBE in 1994 for her work. Two years after she founded FORWARD, the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 made it an offence in the UK to perform FGM on children or adults.

In 1993 the London Borough of Brent debated a motion that FGM should be legalized and made available on the National Health Service. The motion called for it to be classed as a "right specifically for African families who want to carry on their tradition whilst living in this country". Ann Brent, a councillor who opposed the motion, said she suffered verbal attacks, including threats that she herself would be mutilated; interviewed in 2014, she said she believed her treatment had deterred people for years from opposing FGM in case they were accused of racism. The motion was defeated, but not before the World Health Organization, UNICEF and author Alice Walker urged councillors to oppose it.

In 1997 specialist midwife Comfort Momoh set up the African Well Women's Clinic in London to help women affected by FGM. Momoh was awarded an MBE in 2008 for services to women's healthcare.


In 2007 the FGM National Clinical Group was created to train health professionals in how to deal with the practice. Concern about FGM in the UK increased significantly in the mid-2010s. In November 2013 a coalition of Royal Colleges, trade unions and Equality Now produced a report, "Tackling FGM in the UK."

Britain's first specialist clinic for child victims of FGM opened in London in 2014. Since April that year all NHS hospitals have recorded whether a patient has undergone FGM or has a family history of it, and all acute hospitals are obliged to report this data to the Department of Health on a monthly basis. According to the first official figures published on the numbers of FGM cases seen by hospitals in England, over 1,700 women and girls who have undergone FGM were treated by the NHS between April and October 2014.

A 17-year-old student from Bristol, Fahma Mohamed, created with support from The Guardian an online petition on 6 February 2014 with, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. The petition asked Michael Gove, then education secretary, to write to primary and secondary schools, encouraging them to be alert to FGM. The petition was one of the fastest growing UK petitions on, with 230,000 supporters. Gove met Mohamed and members of the youth group Integrate Bristol, who have played a key role in raising awareness of FGM. He sent a letter to all headteachers in England informing them of new guidelines on children's safety, including guidance on FGM. This marked the first time the guidelines included mention of FGM.

In 2015 police acquired the UK’s first FGM protection order. This was acquired under a new law, the Serious Crime Act 2015, which allows such protection orders. It also allows the combating of FGM by judges remanding people in custody, ordering mandatory medical checks, and instructing girls believed to be at risk of FGM to live at a certain address so authorities can see whether they have been mutilated.

On September 12, 2016, Nottingham became the first City of Zero Tolerance towards FGM.

First prosecutions

As of 2015 there have been no convictions in the UK for performing or arranging FGM. By contrast, in France over 100 parents and two practitioners had been prosecuted by 2014 in over 40 criminal cases. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern in July 2013 that there had been no FGM-related convictions in the UK. The committee asked the government to "ensure the full implementation of its legislation on FGM."

The first charges were announced in March 2014 against Dhanuson Dharmasena, a doctor, for having performed FGM on a woman from Somalia who had just given birth at the Whittington Hospital in north London. Another man was charged with aiding and abetting in the same case. During the trial in January 2015 Dharmasena said he had performed a single figure-of-eight stitch to stem bleeding following the birth. Both men were found not guilty on 4 February 2015.

A doctor in Birmingham, Ali Mao-Aweys, was struck off the medical register in 2014 after discussing how to arrange FGM with an undercover journalist in 2012.


Female genital mutilation in the United Kingdom Wikipedia

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