Fears of being branded ‘racist’ or ‘discriminatory’ should not impact on the protection social workers provide to girls who are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM), the Home Office proposes.

FGM is an extremely harmful crime that involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, leading to severe pain and serious consequences both at the time and in later life.

In the UK, FGM has been a criminal offence since the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985, but many men and women from practising communities consider it to be normal to protect their cultural identity.

A recent statutory guidance on FGM proposed by the Home Office stated: “FGM is not a matter that can be left to be decided by personal preference – it is illegal, extremely harmful and is child abuse.”

The latest guidance will build upon multi-agency practice guidelines that were first published in 2011, and also comes at the same time it was announced that no area of England and Wales is free from the illegal practice.

The Home Office’s move will provide social workers with guidance on how to help families where a member is at future risk of FGM, including what measures to take when a girl is at immediate risk or has already been a victim of the crime.

As well as this, the guidance will also give information on FGM, including what it is, its consequences on health and welfare, how often it occurs, how to identify risk factors, criminal law and professional responsibilities surrounding the crime.

It is hoped that this will help people gain a clearer understanding of FGM, leading to increased awareness and improved good practice.

Mary Wandia, programme manager for FGM at Equality Now, added: “The UK as a whole should also continue to lead the way on providing a model to tackle this extreme form of violence against girls and women.

“This means stepping up work to prevent it, protecting girls at risk, providing support to survivors, pursuing prosecutions when necessary and continuing to develop relevant partnerships, to ensure that all work to end this human rights violation is ‘joined up’ and effective at every level.”


Recognising and Preventing FGM

Virtual College has developed a free e-learning course for the Home Office, Recognising and Preventing FGM.


Throughout the course, we follow Hope as she encounters the key issues relating to FGM and we see how they affect her throughout her life. The training has been designed to help a wide range of professionals identify and assist girls who are at risk of FGM.

Find out more about this free online training