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Honour based abuse

Forced Marriage

The Forced Marriage Unit (run jointly by the FCO and Home Office) has released a film to demonstrate the devastating impact of forced marriage on victims and their families

View The Forced Marriage Unit film

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) define female genital mutilation (FGM) as all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It's also known as female circumcision, cutting or sunna.

There are several considered motives for the practice of FGM including tradition, religion, sexuality, marriage, cleanliness and social pressures. FGM is child abuse. It's dangerous and a criminal offence.

There are no medical reasons to carry out FGM. It does not enhance fertility or make childbirth safer. It is used to control female sexuality and can cause severe and long-lasting damage to physical and emotional health.

Law against FGM

FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985. In 2003 it also became a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to take their child abroad to have female genital mutilation. Anyone found guilty of the offence faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

From July 2015 anyone can apply to the court for an FGM Protection Order if they are concerned that someone is at risk of FGM. Breaching an FGM Protection Order is a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

From October 2015, the FGM Act 2003 (as amended by section 74 of the Serious Crime Act 2015) introduced a mandatory reporting duty for all regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales.

Professionals must make a report to the police, if while carrying out their duties they:

  • are informed by a girl under the age of 18 that she has undergone an act of FGM
  • see physical signs that an act of FGM may have been carried out on a girl under the age of 18

More about FGM from NSPCC

Safeguarding children and young people

Read the statutory guidance on FGM

In November 2015, pupils from The Robert Napier School, Kent Police and Medway Safeguarding Children’s Board produced a short film to raise awareness about FGM.

Watch the short FGM awareness film

Breast Ironing

Breast Ironing also known as “Breast Flattening” is when young pubescent girls breasts are ironed and or pounded down with hard or heated objects so the breasts disappear or development is delayed entirely.

It is thought that breast ironing will protect young girls from harassment, rape, abduction and early forced marriage so they can be kept in education.

Like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Breast Ironing is a harmful cultural practice and is child abuse.

Professionals working with children and young people must be able to identify the signs and symptoms of girls who are at risk of or have undergone breast ironing. Like FGM, breast ironing is physical abuse and professionals must follow their Local Safeguarding Children’s Board procedures.

The custom uses large stones, a hammer or spatulas that have been heated over scorching coals to compress the breast tissue of girls as young as 9 years old. Those from richer families may use an elastic belt to press the breasts to prevent them from growing.

The mutilation is a traditional practice from Cameroon designed to make teenage girls look less "womanly” and to deter unwanted male attention, pregnancy and rape.

The law on breast ironing

There is no specific law in the UK around Breast Ironing. However, it is a form of physical abuse and if professionals are concerned a child may be at risk of or suffering significant harm they must refer to their Local Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures.

In April 2016, Conservative MP, Jake Berry called for "breast-ironing" to be made a criminal offence, due to concerns that hundreds of girls in the UK could be affected.