This web app is for young people, both girls and boys living in the UK who want to find out more about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and how it might affect them and others they may know.
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This webapp informs young people about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) known in some communities as:
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FGM is only a problem in Africa.
Communities in Africa have practised FGM for hundreds of years. It is a cultural practice and is passed on from generation to generation. It is also practised in some parts of the Middle East and SE Asia, such as Indonesia. FGM is now a problem in the UK because so many people have come from countries where FGM is widely practised.
FGM is not really a big issue in the UK.
FGM is a big problem in the UK. A report published by the Government in 2014 estimated that 170,000 survivors of FGM are living in the UK. It is thought that another 65,000 girls aged under 14 living in the UK are at risk of FGM.
FGM is necessary because Islam says so.
One of the principles of Islam is that believers should not harm themselves or others. The Muslim Council of Britain, the country's largest Muslim organisation, has condemned the practice of female genital mutilation as "un-Islamic".
I know FGM is painful at first but there are no long term health effects.
FGM is considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations (UN) as a brutal and cruel practice which has no benefits at all and in fact can lead to short and long-term health problems. In some cases it can lead to death.
If mothers and grandmothers have been cut then daughters/grand-daughters must be cut too.
Daughters of mothers and grandmothers who have undergone FGM are usually expected to do the same. However, this is not the case in the UK where FGM is illegal and considered to be child abuse.
FGM is a disease.
FGM is not a disease - it is a cultural tradition.
There is no-one girls can talk to about FGM without their families knowing.
Help is available for girls and women in the UK who feel they or somebody they know is at risk of FGM or who have been subjected to FGM. Anybody can ring or email the NSPCC FGM help line ☎ 0800 028 3550 or @ email@example.com. Girls can also speak to teachers at school as they are now much more aware of the issue of FGM.
FGM is a form of child abuse/violence against women
The law sees FGM as child abuse if performed on a girl under 18. If the girl is over 18 it is seen as violence against women.
FGM is against the law in the UK.
FGM is illegal in the UK. Any person found guilty of being involved in FGM faces going to prison for up to 14 years.
Girls are frequently sent to other countries to have FGM.
Many girls from FGM practising communities living in the UK are sent abroad to be cut usually in the school summer holidays (July/August). Girls will not know what is going to happen to them, they will simply think they are going on holiday to visit relatives. The majority of parents will know that FGM is illegal in the UK which is why they will choose to send their daughters abroad. However sending a girl abroad for FGM is also illegal under UK law.
FGM is usually carried out by an older woman, sometimes known as a "cutter". In nearly all cases girls are not given any pain relief. Girls are usually held down so that they cannot move while their private parts are being cut.
FGM has NO health benefits and causes lots of problems.
These include problems from actually being cut and problems which happen afterwards. Some of these problems are:
FGM can also cause psychological or mental health problems for girls, which may stay with them for life. These can include:
These problems can sometimes lead to difficulties at school and college and future relationships with sexual partners. They can also cause girls to feel betrayed by their families.
FGM has been practiced by many ethnic groups across the world for hundreds of years. It is a cultural practice and is passed on from generation to generation. In these communities families tend to accept what their elders e.g. grandmothers and grandfathers tell them to do as they are seen as "wise" people.
Cultural tradition often means that FGM is seen as an important part of raising a daughter. One of the reasons for this is that families believe that a girl, who is cut, is pure and clean and will find a good husband who will look after her in the future.
Parents of girls who are not cut say they may find it hard to find a husband for their daughters and will find themselves and their family cut off and ignored by the community. Many mothers and fathers believe FGM is normal and that they are doing the "right" thing by allowing their daughters to be cut.
It is very difficult for anyone to speak out against the cultural traditions of their community.
Across the world it is estimated that 125 million girls and women are survivors of FGM. Most of these live in just 29 African and Middle Eastern countries.
However FGM can be found in other regions, including SE Asia, and of course in Europe including the UK.
In some communities, a girl who is not cut is seen as unclean. FGM is seen as a way of making sure that girls are pure and remain virgins until they marry.
Mothers know that FGM is extremely painful and dangerous, because they have experienced it themselves. However, they believe that it makes their daughters tougher and prepares them for future challenges such as childbirth.
FGM is an issue in the UK because so many people have settled here from countries where FGM is commonly practiced. It is estimated that 170,000 girls and women living in England and Wales are survivors of FGM. Many of these had FGM before coming to this country. Approximately 65,000 girls under the age of 13 who have been born in England and Wales are at risk of FGM.
There are more cases of FGM in large cities and towns, for example, London, Cardiff, Manchester, Sheffield, Northampton, Birmingham, Reading, and Coventry as they are home to high numbers of people from countries where FGM is practised.
In the UK FGM has been a criminal offence since 1985 (Female Circumcision Act). In 2003 the law was updated and renamed the Female Genital Mutilation Act. This means that anyone found to be involved in FGM including sending girls abroad for FGM can be prosecuted and sent to prison for up to 14 years.
Under UK law FGM is regarded as a human rights issue. When it involves a girl under 18 years it is regarded as child abuse and when it involves a women over the age of 18 it is treated as violence against women.
The UK government has promised to end FGM in a generation - that's approximately 20 - 25 years. It has introduced a number of different measures to try to achieve this aim. These include:
There is a drive to end FGM in the UK and worldwide. Charities, community groups, and the media are all getting involved.
Two newspapers, the London Evening Standard and the Guardian are doing a lot of work to raise awareness and to put pressure on the Government to do more to stamp out FGM. The Guardian started the worldwide "End FGM" campaign.
The NSPCC have launched a free telephone help line for anyone in the UK worried about FGM happening to them or anyone they know.
At the same time there are individual young women speaking out against FGM. These are women who have undergone FGM – they are called FGM survivors.
All of these actions are leading to many more people knowing about FGM and joining the national and worldwide campaign to end FGM.
More and more survivors of FGM are standing up and speaking out against the practice. Speaking out takes a lot of courage. These women are able to talk about their experience of FGM and how it has affected their lives. They are doing this to warn other girls and young women who might be at risk.
Many boys and men in England do not really understand what FGM is and how it affects girls and women. Once they are made aware, many are shocked and start to speak out against FGM and are joining campaigns to end it.
FGM is carried out in communities of different faiths, including Christians and Muslims. Some parents think they have to do FGM to their daughters for "religious" reasons.
However, no religion supports or promotes FGM. Many religious leaders from all faiths are beginning to speak out against FGM.
At the Girl Summit in 2014, over 240 religious leaders signed the FGM Religious Leaders Declaration. This says:
Religious leaders from the following religious groups signed this declaration:
The Muslim Council of Britain, the country's largest Muslim organisation, has condemned the practice of FGM as "un-Islamic".
“FGM is not an Islamic requirement. There is no reference to it in the holy Qur'an that states girls must be circumcised. Nor is there any authentic reference to this in the Sunnah, the sayings or traditions of our prophet. FGM is bringing the religion of Islam into disrepute.”
Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said:
“We at the MCB are pleased to address this very important issue of female genital mutilation. Working closely together we can end this practice and ensure it is no longer linked to the religion of Islam or the teachings of the prophet Muhammad.”
They also say that 'one of the "basic principles" of Islam is that believers should not harm themselves or others.'
Fahma Mohamed, who spearheaded a campaign for the perils of FGM to be highlighted for girls in British schools, with her petition outside the Department for Education in London. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian Christian Sinibaldi/Guardian. Courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.
Fahma Mohamed at the Women of the Year Lunch with Stephen Lawrence’s mother, Doreen. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images. Courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.
Lots of people and organisations are taking action to end FGM - you can too! Here are some suggestions.
Fatou and her sister Amie are really excited because in a couple of days they are going to West Africa to visit their grandmother and other relatives. Their parents have bought them lots of new clothes and they have had their hair braided. Their relatives are also going to be organising a big party for them. They are looking forward to spending four weeks of their school summer holiday abroad.
However, the night before they are due to leave, Fatou overhears her mother talking to her grandmother on the telephone. She hears her mother saying the word "sunna" a number of times. That night Fatou cannot sleep, because she knows that sunna is FGM. The next morning the family go to the airport, but by this time Fatou realises that she and her sister are going to West Africa for FGM.
Fatou is right to be worried for herself and her sister and should speak to an official person at the airport. This could be the person who checks her ticket and baggage or the passport officer when she shows her passport. It could even be the steward or stewardess on the plane. It is then the duty of the people they have told to make sure that Fatou and her sister are kept safe. The people who work at the airport will know about the dangers of FGM.
The UK Government has developed a FGM community wallet card which can be printed out and kept in a purse or wallet.
Marianna is looking forward to going to school tomorrow. It is the first day at secondary school. She is also looking forward to seeing her best friend, Nimco, who she has not seen all summer as Nimco spent the summer in Africa visiting her relatives.
When Marianna sees Nimco she runs up to greet her but is shocked to find that Nimco is "down" and unhappy and will not answer any of her questions about her trip to Africa. During the day Nimco has to keep going to the toilet and Marianna notices that she is not walking normally. Marianna begins to think something bad has happened to her friend over the summer holidays.
Hussain is the eldest brother of three sisters. Now that he is 16 he has more freedom and is treated like an adult. One evening when his sisters are in bed his parents start to discuss the fact that it is time for his sisters to become women. He is surprised to hear that his parents are to buy them presents and to have a big party when all their relatives, friends and neighbours will be invited. He wonders why he was not given a big party when he became a man. Then his parents start discussing who should make them a woman, a local cutter or one flown in from home. Hussain suddenly realises that his parents are planning to have his sisters cut.
Hussain needs to ring the national NSPCC FGM Helpline or ChildLine to get help and advice. He can also ring the school his sisters attend and speak to their personal tutors or teachers. These organisations will then take action to protect his sisters.
Birmingham & Solihull Women's Aid, Birmingham
☎ 0808 800 0028 (Free phone)
BSCA FGM Project, Bolton
☎ 01204 399239
Daughters of Eve, London
☎ 0798 303 0488
Children's Services Departments
Each local authority has a Children’s Services Department whose role is to ensure that children living in their area are kept safe and do not come to any harm.
If you wish to contact them it may be easier to do so through your school or college as they will have the contact names and contact details.
Other people to talk to are:
There are over 14 specialist clinics across the UK which are supporting women who have undergone FGM. Please click on the following link for the full list:
[www] NHS Specialist Services for Female Genital Mutilation | www.bava.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/List-of-FGM-Clinics-Mar-14-FINAL.pdf
Please speak to someone about your concerns because help is available.
Girls and women who have undergone FGM.
No you will not get into any trouble. You are trying to prevent another girl or yourself being hurt. Once you have told a personal tutor, teacher, school nurse, doctor or contacted the NSPCC you have done all that you can do. They will know what to do next so you do not need to worry.
The organisations and individuals listed in the support section will offer advice and guidance that is personal to you. It is their responsibility to support and protect girls at risk.
If you had FGM in another country BEFORE you came to live in the UK, there is nothing anyone could do. However, there is still plenty of help and support available to you. You can visit your local doctor or nurse, talk to someone at school or contact organisations yourself ( a list is in the support section). You can also ring the NSPCC FGM helpline for advice.
If you had FGM AFTER you began living in the UK your parents could be prosecuted. This is because they have broken the law. FGM is illegal in the UK and it is also illegal to send someone living in the UK to another country to be cut.
However, the people who would make the decisions about whether or not to prosecute your parents would always be sensitive and mindful on the impact it has on you.
If you have younger sisters, people in authority who make the decisions will need to feel certain they are not at risk of FGM.
If you believe you are at risk and you tell someone in authority (personal tutor, teacher, doctor, nurse) or you have rung the NSPCC FGM helpline, your parents will be contacted by the police and/or social services. Your parents will be told about the law in the UK - i.e. FGM is illegal here and FGM is child abuse and anyone breaking the law will be prosecuted.
Some young people will not want their parents to get into trouble because they love them and this is understandable. However, the only way to stop FGM in this country is for all young girls at risk to realise that they have rights over their own bodies and the right to be safe at all times - your parents must respect your rights.
Any interaction with your parents by the police or children’s services will focus on ensuring you remain safe.