Signs of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

For more information on female genital mutilation (FGM) and its effect on children, click here.

Knowing the signs that female genital mutilation is about to take place or has taken place can help give a voice to children and possibly prevent the abusive procedure from happening.

There are certain factors that may heighten a girl’s risk of FGM, and these include:

  • Being between the ages of 5-8 (although FGM has been reported amongst babies and may also affect older children)
  • If a girl’s mother, sister or member of the extended family has been subjected to FGM
  • If a girl’s family are less well integrated into the local community or are experiencing poverty or disadvantage
  • Coming from areas with large populations of FGM practicing communities. FGM is prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and Asia

Many girls at immediate risk of FGM won’t necessarily understand what is going to happen to them, so it is important to be aware of the signs that FGM might happen.

Signs that FGM might happen:

  • A special occasion or ceremony is going to take place where a girl ‘becomes a woman’ or is ‘prepared for marriage’
  • A relative or someone known as a ‘cutter’ is visiting from abroad
  • A female relative, like a mother, sister or aunt has undergone FGM
  • A family arranges a long holiday overseas or visits a family abroad during the summer holidays (professionals may become aware of this if parents are preparing vaccinations or planning absence from school)
  • A girl has an unexpected or long absence from school
  • A girl struggles to keep up in school
  • A girl runs away – or plans to run away – from home

Signs that FGM might have taken place:

  • Difficulty or discomfort walking, standing or sitting
  • Complaints of pain between legs
  • Spending longer than normal in the bathroom or toilet (due to difficulties urinating)
  • Appearing quiet, anxious, or depressed
  • In school, a girl may have long periods away from classes (e.g. trying to get out of physical education or sporting activities)
  • Mentioning that someone did something to them that they are not allowed to talk about
  • Reluctant to go to the doctors or have routine medical examinations
  • Asking for help, but possibly avoiding being explicit about the problem because they’re scared or embarrassed
  • Acting differently after an absence from school or college (e.g. acting withdrawn or Bleeding, discharge, urinary infections, clutching their body

Click here for the Pan Sussex Procedure on FGM.


If you are concerned about a child, please contact Front Door For Families on 01273 290400, FrontDoorForFamilies@brighton-hove.gov.uk, or use their Online Referral Form.

If a child is in immediate danger, you should contact the police by calling 999.

If you know of children you believe to be at risk of FGM, or of people you believe are carrying out FGM, or you have any other information relating to FGM offences, please contact Sussex Police on 101