Female circumcision, FGM, and cutting

Female Genital Mutilation - also called FGM, female circumcision, cutting or sunna - is when a girl's external genitals (private parts) are cut away. This is abuse, and it is illegal in the UK. If you or someone you know is worried about FGM, you can talk to Childline. Our counsellors are here to support you.

What is FGM?

FGM, sometimes referred to as female circumcision, is when a girl's genitals (private parts) are altered or removed. It can cause long-lasting damage as well as ongoing emotional distress. 

The operation is usually done by someone who doesn’t have any 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 blade.

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

  • really bad pain
  • shock
  • bleeding
  • infections such as tetanus, HIV and hepatitis B and C
  • organ damage.

It can also cause problems later on. You may experience difficulties in childbirth, or may need to be cut again. Blood loss and infections can cause death in some cases. FGM can also cause emotional distress at the time and in the future, and it might lead to anxiety and depression.

5 facts about FGM:

  • FGM is abuse, and it's illegal in the UK
  • there is no religious or medical reason for FGM
  • FGM can happen at any age before marriage
  • FGM can be dangerous if there is blood loss and infection
  • if you have been cut or you're worried about FGM, help is available.

Our counsellors are always here to support you on 0800 1111. But if things are feeling really scary or you need help right away, you can call 999 for immediate support.

my mother used to warn me
will happen to a girl
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Speak to our counsellors for help

FGM myths

Young people may be told that:

  • FGM will increase your fertility
  • it’s just 'what’s done'
  • it’s something your parents have had, so you should too
  • FGM is the only way to get a husband
  • not having it would bring shame to the family.

There is no religious or medical reason for FGM. Cultural reasons are sometimes given but FGM is abuse and a criminal offence.

Children are not always told that it's a criminal offence, but they have the right to be safe and get help.

How to get help if you've had FGM

Being cut is often a very upsetting and distressing experience. It’s important to remember that it's not your fault and you don’t need to suffer alone. You can talk to us about how you’re feeling and what you might like to do next. We can also help you get any medical advice or treatment you might need.

If you’re in pain or feel unwell, it’s really important that you get medical help.

Your doctor can help you even if it’s not an emergency. The NHS provides specialist healthcare for women and girls who have had FGM - if it’s available where you live, they can arrange this for you. You can also call 111 if you’re not sure what to do. They can talk to you about the best way to get medical help. Find out more on the NHS website.

It's an emergency:

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

What to do if you're worried about having FGM

You might be feeling pressured to have FGM, especially if other people in your family have been cut. This may make you feel scared or alone but there are people who can help. Your body is your own, not anybody else's.

If you think you’re in immediate danger of being cut or being taken abroad for this to happen you can call the police (dial 999), or you could speak to a teacher or adult you trust. The police are there to keep you safe

If you are worried that you might be forced to have FGM in the future, talk to a trusted adult, such as a teacher at school or doctor. You don’t have to worry alone.

Childline is here for you too. Contact us.

how to help someone else

I'm worried bad things will happen if I speak up

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 that they want this to happen. It could make you worry. Or feel stressed or angry.

If you're going abroad you can take this statement opposing female genital mutilation 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.

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 fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk or calling free on 0800 028 3550

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