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What is FGM?

FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation and is also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting. FGM has no health benefits and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, interfering with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

FGM is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

To learn more about FGM click here to download and listen to a radio drama made by 14 teenagers aged between 14 and 16 years old from ethnic minority communities in Bristol.

What are the signs that this is going to happen?

Signs that FGM may be planned include plans for a long holiday with a special celebration about becoming a woman, and your family may talk about ‘pinching your bottom’.

Who is at risk?

School aged girls from certain ethnic groups are most at risk; these include Somalian, Sudanese, Ethiopian and Gambian girls. In Bristol it is estimated that about 1200 girls are at risk of having FGM.

Why is FGM performed?

Today it is practised in about 28 African countries, parts of Asia and Latin America and across the developed world where immigration from practicing communities has taken place.

The reasons given for practicing FGM include: custom, cleanliness, preserving a girl’s virginity and ensuring she is accepted by her community and can get married. There is also a mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement. No religion actually supports the practice of FGM.

Health Risks

FGM is rarely carried out in a clean environment but usually takes place on the floor or table in someone’s home. The instruments used aren’t sterile or clean and are often used on many girls at one time. FGM causes both short term and long term health problems.

  • Short term problems
    • Broken bones from being held down
    • Infections and a high risk of getting HIV and Aids
    • Urine problems
    • Damage to other organs and tissues
    • Haemorrhage which can result in death
  • Long term problems
    • Vaginal, urine, kidney and pelvic infections
    • Problems with periods and urinating
    • High risk of infertility
    • Problems with pregnancy and childbirth
    • Emotional and psychological problems

FGM and the law

It is illegal for any girl or woman living in the UK to have FGM either at home or abroad. The maximum penalty for anyone organising or carrying out FGM is 14 years in prison. Even though there have not been any prosecutions yet in the UK the police are confident there will be soon. There have been many prosecutions for FGM in Europe and America.

What to do if you are at risk or have had FGM

If you or anyone you know thinks they are at risk of FGM it is important to tell a trusted adult like a teacher or School Nurse. You can also contact:

  • Bristol’s First Response on on 0117 903 6444
  • The Police on 101
  • Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
  • NSPCC 24/7 helpline on 0800 028 3550.

In an emergency dial 999 or contact your local Police Station.

Below are other useful numbers, advice or information around FGM including support, advice and counselling.

  • NSPCC helpline

For 24/7 advice on female genital mutilation, call the NSPCC FGM helpline, run by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

This service is free, anonymous and confidential.

Call 0800 028 3550
Email: fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk
Text helpline: 88858

  • Bristol Community Rose Clinic

The Bristol Community Rose Clinic is a community-based service that provides specialist care and support for Bristol women who are experiencing problems because of FGM.

It is staffed by female doctors and nurses who understand the sensitive and complex issues surrounding FGM, and the helpline and appointments are confidential. Translation is available on request.

To book an appointment, call 07813 016 911 or email bristolrose.clinic@nhs.net.

This is a secure email and confidential line where you can leave your contact details.

Multilingual Rose Clinic Leaflet

  • Bristol Against Violence and Abuse

Bristol Against Violence and Abuse (BAVA) is a collection of people and organisations in Bristol working to end all types of violence and abuse against women and girls, and domestic and sexual violence against men.

Support for women suffering/at risk of domestic abuse. Service for black and minority ethnic people Tel: 0117 925 0680.

The Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development – for African women & girls. Tel: 020 8960 4000.

Women’s counselling, psychotherapy & support service for refugee and asylum seekers. Tel: 0845 458 2914.

  • Children and Young People’s Social Care (CYPS)

If you’re concerned about the well-being of a child contact the First Response Team on 0117 903 6444


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