What is FGM?
The practice involves deliberately cutting, injuring or changing female genitals (usually the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia) without medical reason. The procedure is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty.
There are four different types of FGM, including:
- Type 1 – Clitoridectomy – Partial or total removal of the clitoris.
- Type 2 – Excision – Clitoris and labia minora are partially or totally removed, with or without excision of the labia majora.
- Type 3 – Infibulation – Narrowing the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
- Type 4 – Other harmful procedures – Pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping or burning the area.
FGM in the UK
FGM is illegal in the UK and has been a criminal offence since 1985. It’s a violation of human rights that enforces gender inequality, and it poses serious immediate and ongoing health risks for the women and girls effected, yet the practice is still taking place. As well as being illegal in the UK, it is also illegal to arrange for a female to be taken to a country where it is commonly practiced for it to be carried out; this has been a criminal offence since 2003.
One of the difficulties in addressing this issue is that it is very difficult to detect. FGM expert and barrister Dr Charlotte Proudman said it was "almost impossible to detect" as the girls were not in school or old enough to report it. She adds there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest FGM is being performed on babies because the “cut heals quicker and prosecution is much harder once evidence comes to light and the girl is older”.
Earlier this year, a Ugandan woman from east London became the first person to be found guilty of FGM in the UK in a landmark case for women’s rights.
If you are aware of FGM having taken place, you should report this to the police and speak to a lawyer. If you are aware of plans for a FGM procedure to take place, it is possible to obtain a court order to prevent the procedure being carried out or to take a female to another country for that purpose.
The order is a Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order (FGMPO) and such an order can be obtained on an emergency basis, without or with notifying the person alleged to be arranging the procedure (the Respondent).
Gail Cook, Chartered Legal Executive at QualitySolicitors Yates & Co, has recently obtained such an emergency order, without notifying the Respondent, and has represented the Applicant in two court hearings about the issue with a successful result for the client.
Gail is available for advice and assistance on how to obtain such an order, including all procedural steps, as well as for representation in court on such applications. For more information, get in touch on 0845 485 1430
 Lizzie Dearden, ‘FGM: Number of child victims and girls at risk doubles in year in England and Wales’, Independent (online, 30 November 2018)
 End FGM European Network, ‘What is FGM’
NHS, ‘Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)’ https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/female-genital-mutilation-fgm/.
 Anna Collinson and Jessica Furst, ‘FGM “increasingly performed on UK babies”’ BBC News (online, 4 February 2019) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47076043
 Hannah Summers and Rebecca Ratcliffe, ‘Mother of three-year-old is first person convicted of FGM in UK’, The Guardian (online, 1 February 2019)