FGM/C Shifting Sands

Articles on Shifting Sands

90% of ‘FGM’ seen in NHS may be consensual genital piercings in adults

Published 17 May 2024 Associated Categories Featured, The facts
90% +of ‘FGM’ seen in NHS was genital piercing in adults

Where ‘FGM’ was relevant to their NHS attendance, 35,415 women and girls were seen by services in England between April 2015 and September 2023.

This NHS information is collated by the FGM Enhanced Dataset and is reported here

The NHS advises that three pieces of information are key to understanding ‘FGM’: 

  1. FGM Type (What?) 
  2. Age when FGM was undertaken (When?) 
  3. Country where FGM was undertaken (Where?)

Where all of the key information is known about cases of ‘FGM’ since data was collected, 585 women and girls seen had undergone FGM, in the UK, at some point in their lives:

  • Of these, 91.5 per cent had genital piercings* as adults
  • Only 08.50 per cent had FGM that was not a genital piercing or that took place when they were children.

Genital piercings are included because “While adult women may choose to have genital piercings, in some communities girls are forced to have them. The World Health Organisation currently defines all female genital piercings as a form of FGM. The data item FGM Type 4-Piercing”. Thus the WHO  infantilise female adults. As does UK law which states ‘girl includes woman’ 6(1).

The report rightly states that because so much detail about the women and girls’ ‘FGM’ is unknown, any conclusions based on this information should be considered very carefully.

Data for the period October-December 2023 can now be accessed here. With data from the previous report (above) added, it states:

  • 610 women and girls had FGM undertaken in the UK
  • 91.00 per cent had genital piercing* as an adult
  • 09.00 per cent had FGM that was not a genital piercing or that took place when they were a child.

NHS England has recently consulted on a review of the FGM Enhanced Dataset: “to ensure it is still fit for purpose, the information is provided in a simple and sensitive manner, and to improve the completeness and quality of the data.” 

We are concerned that under Type 4, additional categories like ‘elongation’, ‘other’ and ‘unknown’ may be included. While this might enhance the ‘FGM’ numbers seen, it won’t clarify that adults may have consented to them. As is their right, surely? 



Share Button

About the Author -

Bríd is a retired health professional. She started her career as a nurse and midwife in Africa where she worked for almost four years. She encountered FGM/C in Ethiopia. She then moved to London where she worked in the National Health Service as a midwife, community nurse, health visitor, reproductive and sexual health nurse and manager over a period of 30 years. She did not encounter FGM/C during that time despite working with immigrant communities who are reported to practice it still. She is puzzled by the current reported prevalence of the practice, the official response and associated activism. And is worried that they might cause more harm than good.


Comments are closed.