Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Female Genital Mutilation

UK’s shameful record on female genital mutilation

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 03 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8121
  1. Sue Lloyd-Roberts, special correspondent
  1. 1BBC, London, UK
  1. sue.lloyd-roberts{at}

Last month the Crown Prosecution Service announced plans to crack down on practitioners of female genital mutilation. Sue Lloyd-Roberts asks why we are lagging behind our European neighbours

Ayanna, a 23 year old mother now living on the 15th floor of a Glasgow tower block, fled Gambia a year ago and applied for asylum in the UK to escape an abusive husband and prevent her 6 month old baby girl from being genitally mutilated. “My husband would have insisted,” she explains. “All the women in my community have been cut.”

She says she feels safe in Scotland but tries to avoid contact with the African community. “They’ll tell me that my daughter should be cut. It’s being done here,” she says, pointing through the window at the other tower blocks which make up the Red Road housing estate. “The older women do it—the grandmothers,” she explains. “They use scissors, razor blades, or sharp knives. I know that just last week one 3 year old and a 2 week old baby were cut.”

A group of Somali schoolgirls in Bristol tell me of “cutting parties.” “They tell you that something exciting is going to happen at the party, something that will make us adults. Parents organise the party because it is cheaper that way,” explains 18 year old Mouna. Who does the cutting? “They get an older woman, or the local Imam. Someone with experience who knows how to do it.”

The cutting normally involves what the World Health Organization categorises as type 3 mutilation, says Comfort Momoh, a midwife at St Thomas’ Hospital in London who is widely regarded as the UK expert on the subject. “The clitoris is removed, the vaginal area is sewn up, only leaving a small hole through which the woman can urinate and menstruate. Sexual …

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