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What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) happens any time the external female genitalia (including the labia and clitoris) are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but where there's no medical reason for this to be done.

The Scottish Government's formal statement opposing FGM explains that FGM is:

  • illegal in Scotland and the UK
  • usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15
  • a form of violence against women and girls
  • never needed for medical reasons
  • not approved by any religion

FGM is also known as "female circumcision" or "cutting", and by other terms including khatna, sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan.

FGM interferes with the natural functions of a woman or girl's body and can seriously harm their health. It can cause long-term problems with sex, childbirth and mental health. FGM is against a person's rights to:

  • health, security and physical integrity
  • freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • life (when the procedure results in death)

The law on FGM


Anyone found guilty of carrying out FGM – or helping it to take place – faces up to 14 years in prison, a fine or both.

A UK national or permanent UK resident is guilty of a crime if they carry out FGM outside of Scotland or help arrange for it to be done. FGM has been illegal in Scotland since 1985. The Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 brought back into effect the legal powers of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005. It also extended women's legal protection by making it a criminal offence to have FGM carried out either in Scotland or outside the country. FGM is also illegal throughout the UK. # Who is at risk There are countries where FGM is more common than others. Signs that a girl or young woman is possibly at risk of FGM might include: - one or both parents are from countries where FGM is carried out - her mother has had FGM Do not assume all women who have experienced FGM or all men from affected communities will support the practice. Different ethnic groups carry out FGM for different reasons, and at different ages. It's very important to find out the reasons why FGM is carried out in her community / ethnic group, and the age at which it's done. # How to report it


Contact the NSPCC on 0800 028 3550. This is a free-phone, anonymous, 24-hour helpline for anyone concerned about girls or women at risk of FGM. Or email

If you're concerned about a girl of any age who may be at risk of FGM you can:

  • contact the NSPCC on 0800 028 3550 (24 hour helpline)
  • call the Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 (24 hour helpline) for guidance and support
  • speak to a teacher or any health professional
  • call 999 and ask for the police if you're in the UK and are at immediate risk, or are concerned that you might be taken overseas for the purpose of FGM

If you're visiting in another country and need help or advice please call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on +44 (0) 20 7008 1500 or the British High Commission or Embassy in the country you're visiting.

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