Harmful cultural practices - guidance for professionals

Guidance on female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour based violence.


Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a form of child abuse common to some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities in the UK.

This illegal and life-threatening initiation ritual can leave young victims in agony and with physical and psychological problems that can continue into adulthood.

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 four and ten, but some are babies.

Read Wandsworth multi-agency guidance on FGM.

Wandsworth Safeguarding Children Board developed a Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Strategy which outlines a partnership approach to tackling FGM in Wandsworth.

Linked to the FGM Strategy are some clear FGM guidance for frontline professionals who have responsibilities to safeguard children and protect adults from the abuses associated with FGM, and sets out a framework for a multi-agency response to such incidents.

Female genital mutilation helpline launched

Free 24-hour advice and support to protect UK children from FGM

After discovering that more than 70 women and girls as young as seven seek treatment every month, the NSPCC has launched a helpline to protect UK children from FGM.

The National FGM Centre is an excellent source of information. National FGM Centre

Anyone who is worried about a child being or has been a victim of FGM can contact 0800 028 3550 for information and support.

More information from THRIVE

Forced marriage and honour based violence

A marriage is forced if one or both spouses do not consent. Some people will not be able to consent, for example if they have a learning disability. Sometimes, forced marriage is confused with arranged marriage. The main difference is that both people in an arranged marriage consent and can say no without any physical or emotional consequences.

Forced marriage is a form of honour based violence. Victims of honour based violence suffer from a range of controlling behaviours, often by family and/or community members, such as:

  • Not being allowed to go outside
  • Not being allowed to have a mobile phone, choose what to wear or spend time with friends
  • Not having the freedom to make choices such as going to college/university or having a job

Forcing someone to marry is illegal in England and Wales. It is also illegal to:

  • Take someone abroad to force them to marry
  • Marry someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent
  • Breach a Forced Marriage Protection Order

Read more information about honour based violence.