Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in the UK

Dawn O'Shea

October 13, 2020

The first UK study of its kind has found that while the number of diagnosed cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) is low in the UK, the average age of cases is three years of age.

The study, published in  Archives of Disease in Childhood,  describes cases of FGM presenting to consultant paediatricians and sexual assault referral centres (SARCs), including demographics, medical symptoms, examination findings and outcome.

All consultant paediatricians and relevant SARC leads across the UK and Ireland submitted data on cases <16 years old from November 2015 to November 2017 and 12 months later meeting the case definition of FGM.

A total of 146 cases were documented, 103 (71%) had confirmed FGM and 43 (29%) did not meet the case definition. There were no cases from Northern Ireland.

The mean reported age was three years. Using the World Health Organization classification of FGM, 58 per cent (n=60) had either type 1 (clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris and in rare cases, the prepuce) or type 2 (excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora with or without removal of labia majora). Eight per cent (n=8) had type 3 (infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora with or without removal of the clitoris) and 21 per cent (n=22) had type 4 (all other harmful procedures to the genital for non-medical reasons, for example, pricking, piercing, incision, scraping and cauterising the genital area). Thirteen per cent (n=13) of the cases were not classified.

The majority (70%) had FGM performed in Africa, with others from Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia.

Only one case resulted in a successful prosecution.

This study is the first in the UK to identify the number of cases of FGM reported to or identified by consultant paediatricians and doctors working in the SARC.

The authors say this epidemiological surveillance study suggests there are a very low number of children with FGM in the UK. However, this study only includes cases of FGM presenting to consultant paediatricians and SARCs. It does not exclude the possibility that paediatric FGM may be continuing on a hidden level.

Hodes D, Ayadi O'Donnell N, Pall K, Leoni M, Lok W, Debelle G, Armitage AJ, Creighton SM, Lynn RM. Epidemiological surveillance study of female genital mutilation in the UK. Arch Dis Child. 2020 Oct 6 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2020-319569. PMID: 33023890 View abstract 

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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