Legislation, policy and guidance
It is illegal to carry out FGM in the UK. It is also a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to perform FGM overseas or take their child abroad to have FGM carried out. The maximum penalty for FGM is 14 years’ imprisonment.
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 sets out the law surrounding FGM. In Scotland it is the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005.
In England and Wales, regulated health and social care professionals and teachers have a mandatory duty to make a report to the police if:
- they are informed by a child under the age of 18 that they have undergone FGM
- they observe physical signs that an act of FGM may have been carried out on a child under the age of 18 (Section 74 Serious Crime Act 2015).
The Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation - procedural information (Home Office, 2016) sets out this duty in further detail.
In Wales, professionals who identify cases of FGM must report to the local authority as well as the police (Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014).
In Northern Ireland, it is an offence under Section 5 of the Criminal Law (Northern Ireland) Act 1967 to fail to report a ‘relevant offence’ to the police. This includes:
- knowing or believing that an offence has been committed
- having information which could lead to the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of an offender.
This legislation covers offences against children and adults and includes offences related to FGM.
Each UK nation has its own guidance which sets out:
- how to identify whether a child or young woman may be at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM)
- how to identify a child or woman who has undergone FGM
- how to protect those at risk and support those already affected
- how to prevent and end FGM.
In England and Wales, the Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation provides advice and support to professionals with the responsibility to safeguard and support those affected by FGM (Department for Education, Department of Health and Social Care and Home Office, 2020). This guidance should be considered alongside other statutory safeguarding guidance.
The Home Office has published a resource pack on female genital mutilation, which includes guidance and support materials for local authorities, professional services and voluntary organisations (Home Office, 2021).
The Department of Social Care has provided practical guidance on safeguarding women and girls at risk of FGM (Department of Health and Social Care, 2017).
In Northern Ireland professionals should follow the Multi-agency practice guidelines: Female genital mutilation (PDF) (Department of Health, 2014). The Department of Health and Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) have also published guidance about safeguarding and risk assessment for FGM (Department of Health and SBNI, 2020).
In Scotland the guidance is Responding to female genital mutilation in Scotland: multi-agency guidance (PDF) (Scottish Government, 2017).
The Home Office has produced guidance for police and Border Force staff taking part in Operation Limelight, a multi-agency safeguarding operation at the UK border responding to FGM (Home Office, 2020).
In England and Wales, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) provides Female genital mutilation prosecution guidance (CPS, 2019).
In September 2018, law enforcement agencies in the UK and USA signed an intelligence sharing agreement to help tackle FGM. Organisations including the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the Metropolitan Police and Border Force in the UK; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security in the USA agreed to share intelligence about travel patterns between the UK/USA and countries where children may be taken for FGM to be carried out.
This will help agencies to build their knowledge about FGM and learn from each other to tackle FGM more effectively (NPCC, 2018).
> Find out more about the intelligence sharing agreement