Female genital mutilation (FGM) Legislation, policy and guidance

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. 


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

The Female Genital Mutilation Act was amended by section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 to include FGM Protection Orders. 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 five 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 two years’ imprisonment.

Who can apply for an order?

  • The person who is to be protected by the order
  • a relevant third party (such as the local authority); or
  • 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.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, as amended by section 74 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 , has introduced 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


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

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. 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.

If professionals fail to comply with the duty, this will be dealt with in accordance with existing performance procedures in place for each profession.

(Home Office, 2015)

View 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


Policy and guidance

Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation

This gives health and social care professionals, teachers and the police information on their responsibilities under the female genital mutilation (FGM) mandatory reporting duty which came into force 31 October 2015. Covers: when and how to make a report; next steps following a report; and failure to comply with the duty.

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

Ending violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy

The Home Office published a strategy for tackling violence against women and girls in November 2010. Action plans updating the government's work towards this goal are published annually in March.

The latest action plan was published in March 2014 and sets out cross-government progress. Actions completed so far include:

  • re-launch of the 'This is abuse' campaign which targeted teenage relationship violence, with a greater focus on reaching boys
  • introduction of legislation to criminalise forced marriage (Part 10 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014)
  • completion of the domestic violence disclosure scheme (Clare's Law) pilot and the national roll out from March 2014

It also sets out plans for:

  • early intervention, rolling out programmes such as Clare's Law and domestic violence protection orders
  • supporting local commissioners
  • ensuring that other programmes such as sexual violence, gang related exploitation and modern slavery support the government approach to ending violence against women and girls.

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

Download Call to end violence against women and girls 
(HM Government, 2010)

Download A call to end violence against women and girls: action plan 2014 
(HM Government, 2014)

Visit the 'This is abuse' campaign website
(Home Office, 2013)


Declaration to end FGM

On 6 February 2014 the government published an anti-FGM declaration setting out practical steps including:

  • hospitals to provide information on patients who have been subjected to FGM
  • the launch of a community engagement initiative which will involve the voluntary sector
  • and the appointment of a consortium of leading FGM campaigners to deliver a global awareness campaign.

(Home Office, 2014)

View the New government measures to end FGM news story


Multi-agency practice guidelines: Female Genital Mutilation

Guidance to help frontline professionals in England and Wales to work together to better identify and protect children and adults at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM). Outlines the issues and presents good practice when dealing with victims. Sets out the required information and multi-agency actions to be taken in all cases. Gives job-specific guidance for: health, education, police, and children's services. Presents step-by-step actions, advice on what not to do, a list of points to consider and guidance on the legal position. Also outlines initiatives to reduce the prevalence of FGM and lists specialist health services and organisations working on issues around FGM.

(Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2011)

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


Improving safety, reducing harm

Practical toolkit for frontline practitioners providing information on children experiencing domestic violence and aiming to help practitioners understand what legislation and guidance mean for them and their work.

Also covers sexual violence and exploitation and ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

Includes an overview of Every Child Matters (ECM), principles of commissioning services, risk assessment, guidance for schools, explanations of key standards and policies and practical examples and standard forms. Supercedes 'Responding to domestic abuse: a handbook for health professionals'.

(Department of Health (DH), 2009)

Download Improving safety, reducing harm: children, young people and domestic violence: a practical toolkit for front-line practitioners (PDF)

The Home Office provides a free e-learning package for professionals who need to find out more about identifying and responding to FGM.

(Home Office, 2014)

Working together to safeguard children

Chapters 1-3 provide guidance on the legislative requirements and expectations on services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, covering: assessing need and providing help; organisational responsibilities, including the requirement to appoint a qualified social worker to the role of designated officer for the management of allegations, unless the candidate has previous experience in the role; and, the statutory objectives and functions of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).

Chapter 4 sets out a learning and improvement framework for LSCBs to monitor the effectiveness of local services and includes: a section on what constitutes a notifiable incident; a definition of 'serious harm' for the purposes of Serious Case Reviews.

Chapter 5 provides guidance on child death reviews listing specific responsibilities of relevant bodies in relation to child deaths.

(HM Government, 2015)

Download Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF)

Read more about the changes made to the statutory guidance in 2015 on the Legislation, policy and guidance for England page.


London female genital mutilation resource pack

(London Safeguarding Children Board, 2009)

Download London female genital mutilation resource pack (PDF)

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  1. Home Office (2014) Female genital mutilation: resource pack. [London]: [HM Government].