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Report shows 137,000 Women and Girls with FGM in England and Wales

New report from City shows that the numbers of women with Female Genital Mutilation living in England and Wales has increased

The numbers of women with Female Genital Mutilation living in England and Wales are likely to have increased from 2001 to 2011, according to new estimates in a report from City University London in collaboration with Equality Now.

The study published information from surveys in 29 countries in which FGM is practised with information from the 2011 census about women who had migrated from those countries. It estimated that about 103,000 women aged 15-49 and about 24,000 women aged 50 and over who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM. In addition, about 10,000 girls aged under 15 and 24,000 women over 50, who have migrated to England and Wales are likely to have undergone FGM.  Combining the figures for the three age groups, an estimated 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM, born in countries where FGM is practised, were permanently resident in England and Wales in 2011. 

It also combined the survey data with birth data from the Office for National Statistics and estimated that about 60,000 girls aged 0-14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM.

These estimates come from an interim report of the study which was funded by the Trust for London and the Home Office. Further work will derive estimates for local areas to enable professionals to plan services to support affected women and safeguard their daughters. Census data show that numbers of women born in the countries in the Horn of Africa, where FGM is almost universal and where the most severe Type III form, infibulation, is commonly practised increased by 34,000 from 22,000 in 2001 to 56,000 in 2011. The numbers of women from countries in East and West Africa, where FGM Types I and II, clitoridectomy with or without excision of the labia minora, are very common, also increased by 10,000 over the same period.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a grave human rights violation which is perpetuated by families in the name of culture, tradition and religion. Constituting partial or total removal or injury of the external female genitalia, the World Health Organisation estimates that globally 100 to 140 million girls and women have undergone some type of FGM.

Alison Macfarlane, Professor of Perinatal Health at City University London, said:

These estimates have limitations as they assume that the women who have migrated are typical of women in their country as a whole which may well not be the case. They are needed as it is difficult to collect data directly about the numbers of women affected. They should be used as signposts to guide professionals in planning services for affected women and their daughters rather than hard and fast facts. It is also important to set FGM in context with other problems experienced by migrant women, many of whom have come to England and Wales from areas in conflict.

Efua Dorkenoo OBE, Senior FGM Advisor to Equality Now and Honorary Visiting Senior Fellow at City said: "Positive steps have been taken by the UK parliament in recent times to address FGM, but we need to go further. As recommended by the recent Home Affairs Select Committee report on FGM, the government need to get a handle over this extreme abuse of the most vulnerable girls in our society by implementing a robust national plan to address the issue. 

"Professionals are crying out for clear cut guidance on referral pathways on early identification of girls potentially at risk and prevention; and protocols for documenting and sharing information on FGM between health, children social care, education and the police.

"There is no time to waste on platitudes as thousands of girls living in England and Wales are having their life blighted by this damaging practice."

Read the full report from City University London and Equality Now

Read more statistical estimates of the numbers of affected women living in England and Wales

Read the Forward Report (2007)

Read the Missing Link report (2011)

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