Female genital mutilation (FGM) Legislation, policy and guidance

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal in the UK. Each nation in the UK has policy and guidance to help prevent FGM and take action to protect any child who has been affected.

Legislation

FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985. In 2003 it also became a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to take their child abroad to have female genital mutilation.

Anyone found guilty of the offence faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. 

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 as amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015

Protection orders
Section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 amended the Female Genital Mutilation Act to include FGM protection orders (FGMPOs). 

An FGM protection order is a civil measure which can be applied for through a family court. The FGM protection order offers the means of protecting actual or potential victims from FGM under the civil law.

Breach of an FGM protection order is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. As an alternative to criminal prosecution, a breach could be dealt with in the family court as a contempt of court, carrying a maximum of 2 years’ imprisonment.

Applications for an order can be made by:

  • the person who is to be protected by the order
  • a relevant third party (such as the local authority)
  • any other person with the permission of the court (for example, teachers, health care professionals, police, family member).

FGM protection orders are unique to each case and contain legally binding conditions, prohibitions and restrictions to protect the person at risk of FGM. These may include:

  • confiscating passports or travel documents of the girl at risk and/or family members or other named individuals to prevent girls from being taken abroad
  • ordering that family members or other named individuals should not aid another person in anyway to commit or attempt to commit an FGM offence, such as prohibiting bringing a “cutter” to the UK for the purpose of committing FGM.

The court can make an order in an emergency so that protection is in place straightaway. FGM protection orders came into force on 17 July 2015 and apply to England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

View Section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015

Download FGM protection orders: factsheet (PDF)

Mandatory reporting

Section 74 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 amended the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 to introduce the legal duty for regulated health and social care professionals and teachers to make a report to the police if:

    • they are informed by a girl under the age of 18 that she has undergone an act of FGM

or

    • they observe physical signs that an act of FGM may have been carried out on a girl under the age of 18.

For details on what is required of professionals, see Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation: procedural information (Home Office, 2015) in the guidance section below.

View Section 74 of the Serious Crime Act 2015

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003

Practising FGM in the UK has been a criminal offence since 1985 (Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985).

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 repealed and re-enacted the provisions of the 1985 Act and revised it to set the maximum penalty for FGM to 14 years' imprisonment and make it a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to:

  • perform FGM overseas
  • take a UK national or permanent UK resident overseas to have FGM.

It came into force on 3 March 2004 and applies to England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

View the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 as amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015

Protection orders
Section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 amended the Female Genital Mutilation Act to include FGM protection orders (FGMPOs). 

An FGM protection order is a civil measure which can be applied for through a family court. The FGM protection order offers the means of protecting actual or potential victims from FGM under the civil law.

Breach of an FGM protection order is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. As an alternative to criminal prosecution, a breach could be dealt with in the family court as a contempt of court, carrying a maximum of 2 years’ imprisonment.

Applications for an order can be made by:

  • the person who is to be protected by the order
  • a relevant third party (such as the local authority)
  • any other person with the permission of the court (for example, teachers, health care professionals, police, family member).

FGM protection orders are unique to each case and contain legally binding conditions, prohibitions and restrictions to protect the person at risk of FGM. These may include:

  • confiscating passports or travel documents of the girl at risk and/or family members or other named individuals to prevent girls from being taken abroad
  • ordering that family members or other named individuals should not aid another person in anyway to commit or attempt to commit an FGM offence, such as prohibiting bringing a “cutter” to the UK for the purpose of committing FGM.

The court can make an order in an emergency so that protection is in place straightaway. FGM protection orders came into force on 17 July 2015 and apply to England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

View Section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015

Download FGM protection orders: factsheet (PDF)

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003

Practising FGM in the UK has been a criminal offence since 1985 (Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985).

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 repealed and re-enacted the provisions of the 1985 Act and revised it to set the maximum penalty for FGM to 14 years' imprisonment and make it a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to:

  • perform FGM overseas
  • take a UK national or permanent UK resident overseas to have FGM.

It came into force on 3 March 2004 and applies to England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

View the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003

Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005

Practising FGM in the UK has been a criminal offence since 1985 (Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985).

The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 repealed and re-enacted the provisions of the 1985 Act and revised it to set the maximum penalty for FGM to 14 years' imprisonment and make it a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to:

  • perform FGM overseas:
  • make a UK national or permanent UK resident overseas to have FGM.

It came into force in Scotland on 1 September 2005.

View the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 as amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015

Protection orders
Section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 amended the Female Genital Mutilation Act to include FGM protection orders (FGMPOs). 

An FGM protection order is a civil measure which can be applied for through a family court. The FGM protection order offers the means of protecting actual or potential victims from FGM under the civil law.

Breach of an FGM protection order is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. As an alternative to criminal prosecution, a breach could be dealt with in the family court as a contempt of court, carrying a maximum of 2 years’ imprisonment.

Applications for an order can be made by:

  • the person who is to be protected by the order
  • a relevant third party (such as the local authority)
  • any other person with the permission of the court (for example, teachers, health care professionals, police, family member).

FGM protection orders are unique to each case and contain legally binding conditions, prohibitions and restrictions to protect the person at risk of FGM. These may include:

  • confiscating passports or travel documents of the girl at risk and/or family members or other named individuals to prevent girls from being taken abroad
  • ordering that family members or other named individuals should not aid another person in anyway to commit or attempt to commit an FGM offence, such as prohibiting bringing a “cutter” to the UK for the purpose of committing FGM.

The court can make an order in an emergency so that protection is in place straightaway. FGM protection orders came into force on 17 July 2015 and apply to England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

View Section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015

Download FGM protection orders: factsheet (PDF)

Mandatory reporting

Section 74 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 amended the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 to introduce the legal duty for regulated health and social care professionals and teachers to make a report to the police if:

    • they are informed by a girl under the age of 18 that she has undergone an act of FGM

or

    • they observe physical signs that an act of FGM may have been carried out on a girl under the age of 18.

For details on what is required of professionals, see Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation: procedural information (Home Office, 2015) in the guidance section below.

View Section 74 of the Serious Crime Act 2015

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003

Practising FGM in the UK has been a criminal offence since 1985 (Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985).

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 repealed and re-enacted the provisions of the 1985 Act and revised it to set the maximum penalty for FGM to 14 years' imprisonment and make it a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to:

  • perform FGM overseas
  • take a UK national or permanent UK resident overseas to have FGM.

It came into force on 3 March 2004 and applies to England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

View the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003

Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

Section 130 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 requires professionals to inform the local authority if they have reasonable cause to suspect a child within the local authority’s area is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect or other types of harm.

This will also apply to cases covered by the mandatory reporting duty set out in Section 74 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 which amended the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.

To comply with both duties, professionals who identify cases falling within the FGM mandatory reporting duty will need to make a report to both the police and the local authority.

This came into force in April 2016.

View the Section 130 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015

This Act includes provisions to:

    • improve arrangements to promote awareness of, and prevent, protect and support victims of gender-based violence (including female genital mutilation), domestic abuse and sexual violence
    • introduce a needs-based approach to developing strategies to respond to all forms of violence against women
    • appoint a Ministerial Adviser to improve joint working amongst agencies across the sector.

View the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015

Policy

Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation

(Home Office, 2016)

Sets out the mandatory duty for health and social care professionals, teachers and to make a report to the police if:

    • they are informed by a girl under the age of 18 that she has undergone an act of female genital mutilation (FGM)

or

    • they observe physical signs that an act of FGM may have been carried out on a girl under the age of 18.

For details on the legislation see Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 as amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015 above.

When to make a report

The duty does not apply where a woman over the age of 18 discloses she had FGM when she was under 18.

The duty only applies in cases where the victim discloses. If someone else, such as a parent or guardian, discloses that a girl under 18 has had FGM, a report to the police is not mandatory. However, in these circumstances disclosures should still be handled in line with wider safeguarding responsibilities.

Complying with the duty does not breach any confidentiality requirement which might otherwise apply.

Professionals should make the report as soon after the case has been discovered as possible. Best practice is within 1 working day, but in exceptional cases there is a maximum timeframe of 1 month from when the discovery is made.

Failure to comply with the duty

A professional who fails to comply with this duty will be dealt with in accordance with existing performance procedures in place for each profession.

Download Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation – procedural information (PDF)

See also Fact sheet on mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation with translations, for communities on mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation.

Ending violence against women and girls (VAWG)

(Home Office, 2016)

The government published a new VAWG strategy in March 2016. The strategy outlines a shift from crisis response to early intervention and prevention. 

The strategy includes an action plan for its delivery focusing on: preventing violence and abuse; preventing online abuse and exploitation; provision of services; partnership working and pursuing perpetrators.

Measures include:

    • A Service Transformation Fund to promote projects which stop violence before it happens and prevent abusive behaviour from becoming entrenched.
    • Work with local authorities on changing the attitudes and behaviours of perpetrators through rehabilitation and mental health interventions.
    • Harnessing new technologies in police work such as body worn cameras and GPS tracking to protect victims.
    • A new National Statement of Expectations (NSE) to make clear to local authorities what good commissioning and service provision look like. A new network of local and national experts will support local councils and a range of tools and guidance will be published to help them meet the needs of all victims.

Visit Ending violence against women and girls in the UK policy pages

View Ending violence against women and girls (VAWG): strategy 2016-2020

Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland 

(Department for Health, 2016)

Provides the overarching policy framework for safeguarding children and young people in the statutory, private, independent, community, voluntary and faith sectors. Outlines how communities, organisations and individuals must work both individually and in partnership to ensure children and young people are safeguarded as effectively as possible.

Replaces the ‘Co-operating to safeguard children’ guidance issued in 2003.

See pp 51-52 for specific information on female genital mutilation.

Download Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland (DOCX)

Scotland’s national action plan

(Scottish Government, 2016)

Aligned with the priorities of Equally Safe, the national strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls, this action plan sets out measures to:

    • prioritise protection from and prevention of FGM
    • provide services / appropriate support for those who have experienced FGM
    • hold perpetrators to account

Download Scotland’s national action plan to prevent and eradicate female and genital mutilation (FGM): 2016-2020 (PDF)

Equally safe

(Scottish Government, 2016)

Equally safe’s priorities include:

    • intervening early to prevent violence and maximise the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people
    • tackling perpetrators

It outlines how they will develop a performance framework to determine whether the strategy’s goals are being achieved.

Download Equally safe: Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls (PDF)

National strategy on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence – 2016-2021

(Welsh Government, 2016)

This strategy sets out what the Welsh government will do to achieve provisions in the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015. It outlines 6 objectives the government expects to achieve by November 2021.

The first objective is to: “Increase awareness and challenge attitudes of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence across the Welsh population.” Actions to achieve this objective include: challenging cultural attitudes underpinning traditional harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM).

This will involve working with and supporting specialist black and minority ethnic (BME) violence against women services to engage and support community champions to improve community responses to survivors of violence and abuse.

Download National strategy on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence – 2016-2021 (PDF)

Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation

(Home Office, 2016)

Sets out the mandatory duty for health and social care professionals, teachers and to make a report to the police if:

    • they are informed by a girl under the age of 18 that she has undergone an act of female genital mutilation (FGM)

or

    • they observe physical signs that an act of FGM may have been carried out on a girl under the age of 18.

For details on the legislation see Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 as amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015 above.

When to make a report

The duty does not apply where a woman over the age of 18 discloses she had FGM when she was under 18.

The duty only applies in cases where the victim discloses. If someone else, such as a parent or guardian, discloses that a girl under 18 has had FGM, a report to the police is not mandatory. However, in these circumstances disclosures should still be handled in line with wider safeguarding responsibilities.

Complying with the duty does not breach any confidentiality requirement which might otherwise apply.

Professionals should make the report as soon after the case has been discovered as possible. Best practice is within 1 working day, but in exceptional cases there is a maximum timeframe of 1 month from when the discovery is made.

Failure to comply with the duty

A professional who fails to comply with this duty will be dealt with in accordance with existing performance procedures in place for each profession.

Download Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation – procedural information (PDF)

See also Fact sheet on mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation with translations, for communities on mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation.

Ending violence against women and girls (VAWG)

(Home Office, 2016)

The government published a new VAWG strategy in March 2016. The strategy outlines a shift from crisis response to early intervention and prevention. 

The strategy includes an action plan for its delivery focusing on: preventing violence and abuse; preventing online abuse and exploitation; provision of services; partnership working and pursuing perpetrators.

Measures include:

    • A Service Transformation Fund to promote projects which stop violence before it happens and prevent abusive behaviour from becoming entrenched.
    • Work with local authorities on changing the attitudes and behaviours of perpetrators through rehabilitation and mental health interventions.
    • Harnessing new technologies in police work such as body worn cameras and GPS tracking to protect victims.
    • A new National Statement of Expectations (NSE) to make clear to local authorities what good commissioning and service provision look like. A new network of local and national experts will support local councils and a range of tools and guidance will be published to help them meet the needs of all victims.

Visit Ending violence against women and girls in the UK policy pages

View Ending violence against women and girls (VAWG): strategy 2016-2020

Guidance

Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation

(Home Office, 2016)

For all persons and bodies in England and Wales involved in safeguarding and supporting women and girls affected by female genital mutilation (FGM).

Provides: information on FGM, strategic guidance and the law and gives advice and support to front-line professionals with responsibility to safeguard and support those affected by FGM.

Includes a glossary of terms used for FGM in other languages, key points for legal interventions, police protection and FGM Protection Orders.

Intended to provide additional advice on FGM to be considered in conjunction with other safeguarding guidance.

Download Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation (PDF)

Female genital mutilation: risk and safeguarding

(Department of Health, 2016)

Aimed at multi-agency professionals, this document offers practice guidance and is designed to provide an example which can be used to implement day-to-day frontline processes. It is not intended as a substitute for existing multi-agency practice guidelines or statutory guidance.

Includes:

    • a risk assessment framework tool which helps professionals know the type of risk to look for and the specific factors which are most likely to affect families with girls who are at risk of FGM
    • an overview of the legislative framework and existing guidance.

Download Female genital mutilation: risk and safeguarding: guidance for professionals

Recognising and preventing FGM

(Home Office, 2014)

A free e-learning course for professionals to learn how to identify and respond to FGM.

Uses the story of a girl called Hope to introduce:

    • professional responsibilities
    • spotting the signs
    • identifying girls at risk
    • knowing how to protect and support those affected.

Register for free e-learning Recognising and preventing FGM

Female genital mutilation: resource pack

(Home Office)

Provides case studies and questions for local areas to consider. Links to resources, leaflets, films, guidance and services for local authorities, local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) , police, health, schools and children’s social care

Visit the Female genital mutilation: resource pack

Female genital mutilation: the facts

(Home Office, 2015)

Aimed at a general audience, this leaflet provides facts on the practice of FGM. It covers:

    • communities most at risk of practising FGM
    • FGM and the law
    • signs a girl may have undergone FGM
    • health consequences
    • what to do if you’re worried that you or someone else is at risk of FGM.

Download Female genital mutilation: the facts (PDF)

FGM protection orders: factsheet

(Home Office, 2016)

This factsheet gives detailed information about Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders (FGMPOs) introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2015.

It outlines:

    • what FGM protection orders are
    • who can apply for an order
    • where you can apply
    • costs
    • the process.

Download FGM protection orders: factsheet (PDF)

Multi-agency practice guidelines

(Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), 2014)

Sets out:

    • how to identify a girl or young woman who may be at risk of being subjected to FGM and how to respond appropriately to protect her
    • how to identify when a girl or young woman has been subjected to FGM and how to support her
    • measures to prevent and ultimately eradicate FGM.

Download the Multi-agency practice guidelines: female genital mutilation (PDF)

FGM protection orders: factsheet

(Home Office, 2016)

This factsheet gives detailed information about Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders (FGMPOs) introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2015.

It outlines:

    • what FGM protection orders are
    • who can apply for an order
    • where you can apply
    • costs
    • the process.

Download FGM protection orders: factsheet (PDF)

National guidance for child protection in Scotland

(Scottish Government, 2014)

First published in 2010 and updated in May 2014, the National guidance for child protection in Scotland provides the current guidance and a national framework for anyone who could face child protection issues at work.

Child protection committees will have their own inter-agency child protection procedures which are based on the national guidance.

See pp 129-131 for specific guidance on FGM.

Key messages for practice include:

  • FGM should always be seen as a cause of significant harm and normal child protection procedures should be followed
  • when a child or young person has been subjected to FGM, always consider her female siblings and close relatives who may also be at risk.

Download National guidance for child protection in Scotland (PDF)

Guidance for service specification and standards for health care

(Scottish Government, 2016)

Letter from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer advising health professionals on:

  • what they need to do as part of Scotland’s national action plan to prevent and eradicate FGM
  • details of multi-agency guidance to support an integrated approach to tackling FGM.

Download Guidance for service specification and standards for health care to prevent female genital mutilation (FGM) and respond to the needs of the survivors (PDF)

FGM: additional resources for health professionals

(Scottish Government, 2015)

Signposts additional resources to help frontline health professionals protect and support people who have had or are at risk of FGM. Reminds them to be alert to young people being taken out of the country to have FGM performed.

Download FGM: additional resources for health professionals (PDF)

FGM: a statement opposing female genital mutilation

(Scottish Government, 2015)

This statement, signed by government ministers and agency heads, sets out:

  • what FGM is
  • legislation and criminal penalties
  • help and support for women and girls at risk.

Download Scottish government female genital mutilation (FGM): statement 2015

Female genital mutilation resource

(Education Scotland, 2014)

Powerpoint resource for staff working in schools and early years settings. Includes:

  • the definition and practice of FGM
  • at-risk communities
  • risk factors, signs and symptoms.

Download Female genital mutilation resource

Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation

(Home Office, 2016)

For all persons and bodies in England and Wales involved in safeguarding and supporting women and girls affected by female genital mutilation (FGM).

Provides: information on FGM, strategic guidance and the law and gives advice and support to front-line professionals with responsibility to safeguard and support those affected by FGM.

Includes a glossary of terms used for FGM in other languages, key points for legal interventions, police protection and FGM Protection Orders.

Intended to provide additional advice on FGM to be considered in conjunction with other safeguarding guidance.

Download Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation (PDF)

Female genital mutilation: risk and safeguarding

(Department of Health, 2016)

Aimed at multi-agency professionals, this document offers practice guidance and is designed to provide an example which can be used to implement day-to-day frontline processes. It is not intended as a substitute for existing multi-agency practice guidelines or statutory guidance.

Includes:

    • a risk assessment framework tool which helps professionals know the type of risk to look for and the specific factors which are most likely to affect families with girls who are at risk of FGM
    • an overview of the legislative framework and existing guidance.

Download Female genital mutilation: risk and safeguarding: guidance for professionals

Recognising and preventing FGM

(Home Office, 2014)

A free e-learning course for professionals to learn how to identify and respond to FGM.

Uses the story of a girl called Hope to introduce:

    • professional responsibilities
    • spotting the signs
    • identifying girls at risk
    • knowing how to protect and support those affected.

Register for free e-learning Recognising and preventing FGM

Female genital mutilation: resource pack

(Home Office)

Provides case studies and questions for local areas to consider. Links to resources, leaflets, films, guidance and services for local authorities, local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) , police, health, schools and children’s social care

Visit the Female genital mutilation: resource pack

Female genital mutilation: the facts

(Home Office, 2015)

Aimed at a general audience, this leaflet provides facts on the practice of FGM. It covers:

    • communities most at risk of practising FGM
    • FGM and the law
    • signs a girl may have undergone FGM
    • health consequences
    • what to do if you’re worried that you or someone else is at risk of FGM.

Download Female genital mutilation: the facts (PDF)

All Wales Protocol

(All Wales Child Protection Procedures Review Group, 2011)

Outlines procedures in cases of female genital mutilation. Includes guide to relevant national and international legislation.

Download the All Wales Protocol: female genital mutilation

Safeguarding children: working together under the Children Act 2004

(Welsh Government, 2004)

Sets out the Welsh Government's guidance on child protection and safeguarding for local authorities in Wales.

View Safeguarding children: working together under the Children Act 2004

FGM protection orders: factsheet

(Home Office, 2016)

This factsheet gives detailed information about Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders (FGMPOs) introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2015.

It outlines:

    • what FGM protection orders are
    • who can apply for an order
    • where you can apply
    • costs
    • the process.

Download FGM protection orders: factsheet (PDF)

More about FGM

What is FGM

Find out more about female genital mutilation (FGM) and how it happens.

Find out more

Signs, indicators and effects

Find out more about the signs, indicators and effects of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Identifying the signs of FGM

Who is affected by FGM

Female genital mutilation (FGM) can happen at any age before getting married or having a baby. Some girls are babies when FGM is carried out.

Find out more

Prevent and protect

How to help keep children safe from female genital mutilation (FGM).

Prevent and protect children from FGM

Facts and statistics

Facts and statistics about female genital mutilation (FGM).

See FGM statistics

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References