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Female Genital Mutilation Helpline
  1. Susan Quilliam
  1. Writer, Broadcaster, Consultant and Trainer, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Susan Quilliam, Cambridge, UK; susan{at}susanquilliam.com; http://www.susanquilliam.com

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What is the FGM Helpline?

We at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) have launched a new helpline to protect children in Britain from female genital mutilation (FGM).

What is FGM?

FGM is an initiation ritual common to some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities worldwide. Carried out in secret and often without anaesthetic, it involves the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs; victims are usually aged between 4 and 10 years, but some are babies. As well as being painful and often life-threatening, the procedure can leave girls with physical and psychological problems that continue into adulthood and affect sexual activity and childbearing. The practice of FGM is a form of abuse and is illegal in Britain.

How big is the need?

Every month more than 70 women and girls seek treatment in Britain, with over 1700 referred to specialist clinics from 2011 to 2013. However, we believe the true number of victims is even higher – only a tiny fraction of those affected come forward for medical help, usually because of maternity problems.

Why a helpline?

Children who are at risk and women who have suffered FGM often do not know the practice is harmful and abusive. They are told by their family that being cut is in their best interest, and that if they are not cut, they are unclean and immoral. There is also huge pressure within communities to keep quiet about FGM; some people are even threatened with violence if they speak out.

We believe a dedicated helpline, with specially-trained child protection advisors, will help inform sufferers, break the silence and allow those affected and at risk to come forward.

Who is the helpline for?

Anyone concerned that a child's welfare is at risk can speak to us: a girl, her family, …

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