Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) removes some or all of a girl’s genitals. It’s also known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘female genital cutting’. FGM is a crime in in Northern Ireland. If you’ve been through FGM, you can get help and support. You can also report the crime.

Who FGM affects

FGM is child abuse.  Usually it’s carried out on children, including infants, and girls under 15 years old but some young women have also had FGM. An FGM procedure isn’t done for health or medical reasons. It’s done for various cultural, religious and social reasons. 

How FGM can affect women

FGM can be very dangerous and painful. The procedures can cause emotional and physical trauma, including:

  • severe pain
  • shock
  • blood loss
  • infections

It can also affect mental health or cause physical problems going to the toilet or giving birth.

Contacting the FGM helpline

If you or someone you know is worried about FGM or might be at risk, it’s important to get help as soon as you can.

You can contact NSPCC’s 24-hour FGM helpline. You don’t need to give your name. Helpline staff can speak to the police or social services on your behalf.

Contacting the police

You can also contact the police or report any worries anonymously to Crimestoppers:

  • PSNI - 101 (999 for emergencies)
  • Crimestoppers – 0800 555 111

Contacting local child protection services

You can also contact children’s gateway services at your local Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust:

How the law can deal with FGM crimes

It’s an offence to carry out FGM in Northern Ireland. It’s also illegal to take a UK national or permanent resident abroad for FGM or to help someone trying to do this. The maximum sentence for carrying out FGM or helping it to take place is 14 years in prison.

FGM protection order (FGMPO)

You can apply to get a protection order from the court if:

  • you or someone you know is a victim of female genital mutilation
  • you or someone you know is in danger of female genital mutilation

You need to apply to the High Court or County Court for an FGMPO. You should get legal advice to help with an application.  You might be eligible for legal aid.

You can also contact the police for advice and support:

  • PSNI - 101 (999 for emergencies)

How an FGMPO can help

An FGM protection order (FGMPO) is unique to each female genital mutilation case. When granted, an FGMPO could:

  • stop a girl being taken out of Northern Ireland
  • stop family members bringing someone to Northern Ireland to do an FGM procedure

If asked beforehand, the court will put special arrangements in place to protect the identity and safety of a vulnerable witness. 

It’s a criminal offence to break an FGMPO. The penalty could be up to five years in prison.

If a girl is at risk of FGM

If you think that a child or young woman is in immediate danger of FGM, it’s an emergency. You should contact the police on 999. 

If you know that a child or young woman has been taken abroad for FGM, the police might put you in contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They can help British citizens abroad.

Getting help after FGM

If you or someone you know has been through a FGM procedure, you can get help and support. Speak to your GP or contact the FGM 24-hour helpline.

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