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The Law on FGM

National Policy documents for professionals

Legal framework on FGM

The United Kingdom is a signatory to two key international Conventions: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Article 24 of the CRC calls for the prohibition of all traditional practices that are prejudicial to the health and wellbeing of children across the globe.

FGM is illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and in Scotland under the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2005.

Both Acts make it an offence for any person:

a)      to excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of a person’s labia majora,labia minora or clitoris; or

b)      to aid, abet, counsel or procure the performance by another person of any of those acts on that other person’s own body, or

c)       to aid, abet, counsel or procure a person to excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of her own labia majora, labia minora or clitoris.

The FGM Act (2003) also makes it an offense for anyone to assist a non-UK person to mutilate a girl’s genitalia abroad, including in countries where the practice may be legal. For instance, parents who procure FGM for their daughters outside the UK would be committing a criminal offence, even if they have not carried out the procedure themselves.

It is an offence for a trained medical practitioner to perform any surgical procedure for FGM or to re-infibulate a girl or woman. However there is no offence for an approved person to perform a surgical procedure where necessary for a girl or woman’s physical or mental health (e.g. for gender reassignment, cosmetic surgery resulting from perceived abnormality, and operations to remove malignant tumours), or during childbirth.   

These Acts carry a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.