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Female circumcision, FGM, and cutting

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also called female circumcision, cutting or sunna, is when a girl's external genitals (private parts) are cut away. Sometimes their vagina is sewn up too.

Worried girl looking up

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is abuse

It’s wrong and it shouldn’t be happening.

FGM is illegal in the UK – it’s also illegal to arrange for someone to be taken out of the country to be cut.

There are no medical reasons to carry out FGM.

Religious, social or cultural reasons are sometimes given however FGM is dangerous and a criminal offence.

The police can protect you if you think you are at risk of being cut (FGM).


Getting help

The most important thing to know is that you can get help to stay safe - you don’t have to cope on your own.

You can talk to our counsellors.They understand that it can be very difficult to talk about what is happening and will let you take your time.

If you are worried about FGM happening to you or if you think you might be taken abroad for it to be done, you can get a FGM protection order to stop this. This is a legal document that can protect you. ChildLine can help you get this from a family court or you could call the police on 999.

Call us free on 0800 1111 (it won’t show up on a phone bill).

  • Speaking up about being cut

    Telling someone you are worried you might be cut (FGM) can be really scary and upsetting.

    It’s possible that someone you know and love would arrange for you to be cut because they think it’s the best thing for you. They might also say it’s an important part of your religion or something that it’s traditional for women to have done.

    This does not make what they are doing okay and you can get help to stop this happening.

    We understand that even though you don’t want to be cut you might be worried about what could happen after you tell somebody.

  • I am worried about getting my parents into trouble

    You might worry that:

    - your family or parents will get in trouble or will be upset
    - you won’t be able to get married
    - you will get other people into trouble or everyone you know will turn against you

    It’s normal to feel this way and it’s okay to have these feelings. It’s not unusual to have a good relationship with the person that wants you to be cut but feel upset, worried, stressed or angry that they want this to happen.

    If you're going abroad you can take this statement opposing female genital mutilation (opens in a new window) with you. You can show it to your family so they know FGM is a serious criminal offence. Put it in your passport and keep it with you all the time.

  • I think I'm in danger of being cut (undergoing FGM), what do I do?

    If you think you are in immediate danger of being cut or being taken abroad for this to happen you can call the police (dial 999).

    ChildLine are here for you too. You can contact us online for a 1-2-1 chat or phone free on 0800 1111.

  • How does FGM happen and is it painful?

    FGM is usually performed by someone with no medical training. Girls are given no anaesthetic, no antiseptic treatment and are often forced to keep still.

    The cutting is made using tools such as a knife, pair of scissors, scalpel, glass or razor balde.

    FGM can be extremely painful and dangerous. It can cause:

    - severe pain
    - shock
    - bleeding
    - infections such as tetanus, HIV as well as hepatitis B and C
    - organ damage

    Blood loss and infections can cause death in some cases

  • I'm worried about being cut

    You might be under a lot of pressure to go through being cut especially if other members of your family or people you know have had it done.

    You might also feel:

    - afraid
    - anxious
    - angry
    - lonely or isolated
    - sad or depressed
    - tearful
    - stressed
    - like you can’t concentrate at school, sleep properly or that you don’t want to eat
    - like you want to run away

    It is okay to get upset about being cut and have very strong feelings - this is a natural reaction to abuse.

  • Someone I know is at risk of being cut, what can I do?

    If you are worried about someone and think they might be at risk of being cut, you could try to talk to them about it, in private, when there's enough time to chat properly. 

    It would be helpful to suggest they could contact ChildLine or talk to an adult they trust.

    You could also think about telling someone what is happening, it’s a lot to cope with on your own and an adult should be able to help you get support. You could talk to a trusted adult like a teacher, a youth worker or a doctor.

    What to look for: Signs of FGM

    A girl or woman may:

    - have difficulty walking, sitting or standing
    - spend longer than normal in the bathroom or toilet
    - have unusual behaviour after an absence from school or college
    - be particularly reluctant to have normal medical check-ups
    - ask for help but not tell you exactly what the problem is due to embarrassment or fear

    You can always talk to ChildLine, we can help you think about how to support your friend.

  • I’ve already been cut (had FGM), can I get help?

    Yes, if you’ve recently had FGM and are in pain or feel unwell it’s really important that you get medical help.

    You should call 999 if your life is in danger, or if you need urgent help you can go to your local hospital’s Accident and Emergency department (A&E).

    Your doctor can help you if it’s not an emergency. The NHS provides specialist health care for women and girls who have had FGM - if it’s available where you live, they can arrange this for you.

    Being cut is often a very upsetting and distressing experience - you can talk to us about how you’re feeling and what you might like to do next. We can also support you to get any medical advice or treatment you might need.

  • What is the NSPCC FGM helpline?

    ChildLine is part of the NSPCC. And we work together to help young people. NSPCC wants to make sure you get support if you or someone you know is worried about FGM so they've got a helpline just for these kinds of worries.

    You can contact the NSPCC helpline by emailing or calling free on 0800 028 3550

    If you're abroad you can call +44 (0) 800 028 3550 but check call charges first.

Other sites that can help

Medical advice and information about FGM.
NHS Choices

Advice and counselling for anyone affected by FGM.

Support for young people from women who have experienced FGM themselves.
Daughters of Eve

Read what the Government has to say about FGM and a quick list of places you can get help.

Support for people in Wales with worries about abuse and FGM.

Call ChildLine

You can call ChildLine at any time on 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor. Calls are free and confidential.

Call ChildLine

Online chat

Chat to a ChildLine counsellor online in a 1-2-1 session any time you want. Sign up to start talking.

Online chat

Anything missing?

Is there any other information or advice about FGM you'd like to see?

Female circumcision, FGM, and cutting 


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