Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation Campaign

Police Scotland is launching a campaign to raise awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Scotland.

FGM is a crime in Scotland and contravenes the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005, which also makes it an offence to take a girl out of the country for the purposes of undergoing FGM.

Female Genital Mutilation is one of the severest forms of child abuse.

What is Female Genital Mutilation

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) [2014] defines FGM as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.
  • Different terms are often used to describe these procedures, including “female genital cutting” and “female circumcision”.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for females.
  • FGM is most commonly carried out on girls between the ages of infancy and 15 years old.
  • FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls' and women's bodies.

Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue.

Long-term consequences can include:

  • Recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections
  • Cysts
  • Infertility
  • Increased risk of childbirth complications and new-born deaths

Who is at risk of FGM?

There are 29 countries identified by UNICEF as FGM-practising countries.

Procedures are mostly carried out on young girls most commonly between infancy and age 15 and the WHO estimates that 125 million women and girls are affected today predominantly in pockets of the Middle East and across central Africa from West to East (UNICEF 2013); but also, reportedly, in South Asia and in diaspora communities all over the world.

The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities.

  • Where FGM is a social convention, the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing is a strong motivation to perpetuate the practice.
  • FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
  • FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman's libido and therefore believed to help her resist "illicit" sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed (type 3 above), the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage "illicit" sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM.
  • FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are “clean” and "beautiful" after removal of body parts that are considered "male" or "unclean".
  • Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.

There is a risk that young girls can be taken out of the country during holiday periods to countries where FGM is prevalent and subjected to this form of child abuse.

Sara's Story

Sara’s story is a 6 minute animated film that outlines what FGM is, why it is carried out, and how it can affect girls and women. The film is based on real-life accounts by women survivors of FGM. The film does not include any graphic or real life images of FGM and was produced by the Women’s Support Project with funding from the Scottish Government.

FGM Aware: Sara's Story from media co-op on Vimeo.

More Information on FGM

Women's Support Project - Information and resourced on FGM and details of organisations that can help.

Saheliya - Provides well-being services and practical help to access benefits, housing, legal representation and learning activities.

Roshni - Works to ensure safety and well-being of children, young people and vulnerable adults within the ethnic minority communities.

NSPCC - The NSPCC FGM Helpline offers advice, information and support to anyone concerned that a child's welfare is at risk because of female genital mutilation

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