Cutting Season

Cutting Season

Posted on Jun 22, 2016

Cutting Season



What is it? What are the signs? What action to take.

Remember your childhood summer holidays? Looking forward to the end of school and the prospect of six whole weeks off – it was always so exciting. Those six weeks were full of fun: seeing your friends, playing in the park, having barbeques with your family, and perfecting your sand castles on holiday. It was brilliant.

But for potentially thousands of girls in the UK, the summer holidays mark the arrival of ‘cutting season’.


What is the cutting season?

The cutting season is when girls are flown abroad to have female genital mutilation (FGM) performed on them. Often under the pretence of a holiday visiting relatives, upon arrival they are subjected to FGM.

These girls are cut by family members or ‘elders’ with objects such as glass, scissors and razor blades – none of which are sterilised.


Why the summer holidays?

It’s understood that those organising overseas FGM for girls or women often choose the summer holidays because this will give them a better chance of recovering from the physical effects of the practice in time to avoid suspicion on their return.

Leaving the country reduces the risk of parents being caught and prosecuted and keeps the incidence of FGM hidden.


The Law

Practising FGM in the UK has been a criminal offence since 1985. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 revised the provisions of the 1985 Act to set the maximum penalty for FGM to 14 years' imprisonment and make it a criminal offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to:

  • Perform FGM overseas
  • Take a UK national or permanent UK resident overseas to have FGM.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act was also amended by section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 to include FGM Protection Orders.

An FGM Protection Order is a civil measure which can be applied for through a family court. This measure offers the means of protecting actual or potential victims from FGM under the civil law. Orders are unique to each case and contain legally binding conditions and restrictions to protect the person at risk of FGM. These may include:

  • Confiscating passports or travel documents of the girl at risk and/or family members or other named individuals to prevent girls from being taken abroad
  • Ordering that family members or other named individuals should not aid another person in any way to commit, or attempt to commit, an FGM offence, such as stopping them bringing a “cutter” to the UK for the purpose of committing FGM.


What are the signs?

Possible warning signs FGM is about to take place may include:

  • The family making preparations to take the girl abroad ‘on holiday’, e.g. arranging vaccinations or requesting a prolonged absence from school
  • Mention of a female relative coming to visit
  • A girl asking for help from a teacher or another adult if she feels at risk of danger
  • A girl becoming easily distressed, fearful or anxious
  • Referencing FGM (or it’s other alternative names)
  • A child talking about a special procedure/ceremony that is going to take place.

There's a lot of secrecy surrounding the procedure and for obvious reasons, it isn’t always easy to detect, so it is important to know the possible signs and be confident in what actions to take should you suspect.


What action to take?

On the 31st October 2015, new mandatory reporting duty for FGM was introduced. It means that health and social care professionals and teachers will be obliged to report all cases of known FGM in under-18s within 1 month, whether it was disclosed by the victim or seen by the professional themselves.

You need to incorporate FGM within your safeguarding policies. This way, if any member of staff suspects someone at risk they will have the correct information to help them.

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If you are worried that someone you know may be at risk of FGM or may be taken abroad for FGM contact the Metropolitan Police (Project Azure – FGM) Helpline on 0207 161 2888.

If you are worried that a child may be at risk of FGM, you can contact NSPCC 24-hour helpline anonymously on 0800 028 3550 or email them on

For more information on FGM and for alternative helplines please click here


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