Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Tackling female genital mutilation in the UK

Misleading use of FGM statistics compounds concerns about their reliability

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 05 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l927
  1. Alison Macfarlane, professor of perinatal health
  1. Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research, School of Health Sciences, City, University of London, London EC1R 1UW, UK
  1. a.j.macfarlane{at}

Karlsen and colleagues raise concerns about the quality of statistics on female genital mutilation (FGM).1 Their limitations are compounded by the misleading ways in which the statistics are used to support or refute public claims of high rates of prevalence of FGM among girls born in the United Kingdom.

Even the otherwise excellent editorial wrongly states, “Girls are considered at risk if born to a mother who has FGM. Estimates based on migration data suggest there are up to 60 000 such girls in the UK.”2 Our report, based on birth registration statistics, estimated that 60 273 girls were born in England and Wales to migrant mothers with FGM from 1996 to 2010, and a further 17 344 were born in 2011-13.3 We specifically warned that these children could not be assumed to be “at …

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