Skip to navigation

press releases

Select Topic:

Select Year:

Select Month:

Select Nation:

UK map

Professionals must be aware of FGM ‘cutting season' signs

Release Date: 07 Jun 2017

Barnardo’s children’s charity is advising professionals, including teachers, of the signs a girl may be at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) as ‘cutting season’ approaches.

The so-called season arrives at the start of the summer holidays, when potentially thousands of UK girls could be flown abroad to unwittingly undergo the procedure.

Any teacher who suspects a pupil is going overseas for this purpose should follow normal safeguarding procedures.

But these professionals can only help protect children by knowing what to look out for.

Some indications may come from the child. She might:

  • Begin to tell her friends about FGM
  • Confide she is going to have a ‘special procedure’, or attend a special occasion to ‘become a woman’.
  • Talk about looking forward to a long holiday to a country where the practice is prevalent.
  • Approach a teacher or another adult if she’s aware or suspects she’s at immediate risk.

The child’s parents may unwittingly give the following clues:

  • Say they are taking their child out of the country for a prolonged period of time
  • Ask permission to take their daughter out of school during term time.
  • Talk about looking forward to a long holiday to a country where her relatives live and where the practice is prevalent.
  • Mention they are going to a country with a high prevalence of FGM, especially during holiday periods.

The National FGM Centre, run by Barnardo’s in conjunction with the Local Government Association, trains professionals to spot the signs which may suggest girls have had FGM.

These include difficulty in walking or sitting down comfortably, taking a long time in the toilet, or a significant change in behaviour such as becoming withdrawn.

This is as figures published this week show that we still have a long way to go before new cases are stopped.

There were 1,236 new cases of female genital mutilation recorded in England between January and March 2017, according to figures published on Thursday (June 6) by NHS Digital.

Of these, 84% happened before the girl had reached her 10th birthday and 17% took place before she had turned one.

In all, there were 2,102 attendances where FGM was identified or a medical procedure for the practice was undertaken.

Director of the National FGM Centre, Michelle Lee-Izu said:

Much more needs to be done to support survivors of FGM and protect girls who are at risk.

FGM is child abuse and no girl should ever have to live with the harmful physical and emotional consequences of this practice.

We hope our reminder of the signs will help not just teachers but all agencies to prevent FGM from happening by identifying girls at risk and helping to prosecute those who fail to protect girls from this type of abuse.


Notes to editors

24 hour press office number 020 8498 7555

The figures are published by NHS Digital and show between January and March 2017, 1,236 women and girls with FGM were recorded in the FGM Enhanced Dataset for the first time.

Between January and March 2017 there were 2,102 attendances reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified or a procedure for FGM was undertaken.

Since October 31, 2015, it has been mandatory for health, social care workers and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM for under 18-year-olds to the police.

If any child tells one of these regulated professionals they have had FGM, or if a professional observes she has had FGM, they must phone the police on 101.

If an adult tells someone a child has had FGM, this is a report of child abuse.

Figures show there are at least 137,000 girls and women affected by FGM in England and Wales.  

Since the Government introduced the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act in 1985, which made FGM a specific criminal offence, there have been many initiatives to stop FGM in the UK.

In 2003 the Female Genital Mutilation Act made it illegal to take a girl abroad for FGM.


Last year 248,000 children, young people and families were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 996 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.

We work to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year we help thousands of families to build a better future. But we cannot do it without you.

Visit to find out how you can get involved. Registered charity No. 216250 and SC037605

Follow Barnardo’s media team on Twitter @BarnardosNews

« Back to press releases