Violence Against Women and Girls

Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is a hate crime and a violation of the human rights of women and girls

In this section, you will find relevant information on domestic abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.

Midwives have a duty to support each and every individual who seeks help as a result of violence, treating them with compassion, respect and dignity and referring them on to appropriate support and treatment in the areas of both health and psychological care.

Read the RCM position on violence against women and girls.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of gender-based violence that is outlawed in many countries. FGM represents a violation of the human rights of the girls and women who are subjected to this practice, for which there are no medical benefits. FGM can have devastating and long-term physical and psychological consequences for its victims.

Tackling Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK

The RCM launched a series of hard-hitting animated films on FGM, showing the reality of FGM through the medium of art, giving a much-needed voice to FGM survivors, plus illustrating the serious and life-long mental and physical implications of FGM for those who have to endure it.

As well as raising awareness, the films aim to cut through inaccurate and misleading information about FGM.

The films were developed by the RCM in collaboration with the RCOG, RCGP, NGOs, a variety of local community partners, and vitally – survivors of FGM.

Download the Call to Act to End FGM poster.

The RCM have contributed to Tackling FGM in the UK, an intercollegiate report which provides recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting. 

Mandatory reporting (for England and Wales only)

The mandatory reporting duty for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been introduced through Section 74 Serious Crime Act 2015. This received Royal Assent on 3 March 2015. A new section 5B has been introduced in the FGM Act 2003, which places a single personal mandatory reporting duty on persons who work in a 'regulated profession' in England and Wales.

Healthcare professionals, teachers and social care workers are required to notify the police within one month, when, in the course of their work, they discover that an act of FGM appears to have been carried out on a girl who is under 18. The term 'discover' includes where the victim discloses to the professional that she has been subject to FGM, or where the professional observes the physical signs of FGM.

This professional duty to report cases of FGM in girls under 18 to the police commenced on 31 October 2015.

Download the publication, Q and A for Regulated Professionals: Mandatory Reporting of Female Genital Mutilation.

Frequently asked questions about mandatory reporting of FGM:

New duty for health and social care professionals and teachers to report female genital mutilation (FGM) to the police.

Mandatory reporting of FGM* Duty applies to regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales.

It requires these professionals to make a report to the police if, in the course of their professional duties, they:

  • are informed by a girl under 18 that an act of FGM has been carried out on her; or
  • observe physical signs which appear to show that an act of FGM has been carried out on a girl under 18 and have no reason to believe that the act was necessary for the girl’s physical or mental health or for purposes connected with labour or birth. *introduced in Section 5B of the FGM Act 2003, as inserted by section 74 of the Serious Crime Act 2015

On 31 October 2015 a new duty was introduced that requires health and social care professionals and teachers to report ‘known’ cases of FGM in girls aged under 18 to the police. For example, if a doctor sees that a girl aged under 18 has had FGM they will need to make a report to the police. Or, if a girl tells her teacher that she has had FGM, the teacher will need to report this to the police.

FGM is a serious crime and the police will need to investigate each reported case appropriately. The police will work with social care professionals to make sure that the girl is safe and her needs are put first.

When a girl has undergone FGM, a serious crime has taken place so it is very important that the police are involved as soon as possible. This will make sure that a proper investigation can occur. The purpose of the new duty is to help make sure that professionals have the confidence to confront FGM and to help increase the number of referrals to the police so that cases can be investigated appropriately.

It doesn’t mean that police will take action without consulting appropriately with social care professionals and other relevant professionals.

It won’t require professionals to report cases to the police where they suspect FGM may have been carried out or think a girl may be at risk. The duty also doesn’t apply to women aged 18 or over. Professionals will follow existing safeguarding procedures in these cases. 

More videos about FGM

Watch the NHS Choices video, which focuses on talking to patients about FGM:

Watch women talking about their personal experiences of female genital mutilation:

UK Government progress

On 22 July 2014, the Prime Minister and UNICEF hosted the first Girl Summit, aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation.

Read about the key achievements and next steps.

Resources to help you

The Department of Health along with NHS England and professional bodies, have developed a package of support including:

Forced marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.

Resources for midwives

Safeguarding and Child Protection 

The purpose of this i-learn module is to support the development of best practice in safeguarding and child protection.

Female Genital Mutilation 

This i-learn module looks at how to identify FGM and how to communicate effectively and sensitively whilst caring for women and girls who have had FGM. It also considers how to prevent FGM being practised in the future.

Domestic abuse 

This i-learn module will develop understanding of what domestic abuse is, who is affected by it and how it presents in modern society, including its consequences. It also highlights the need for referring women to the right sources of help and support, including public authorities and voluntary community service organisations.

Eight tips for responding to domestic abuse

Gene Feder OBE; Professor of primary health care at the Centre for Academic Primary Care, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol shares lessons learnt via eight key tips in the context of primary care about how clinicians can respond to patients experiencing abuse which may be relevant to my obstetric and midwifery colleagues.

Women affected by forced marriage

The i-learn module on Forced Marriage (FM) provides an understanding of the problem and its scale in the UK. It provides information on understanding and identifying the differences between FM and arranged marriage together with the motivation for FM and how it presents.

Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation

This i-learn module will enable you to understand your personal mandatory reporting duty of female genital mutilation (FGM) in relation to girls under the age of 18 and to distinguish this from NHS England's recording duty.

Safeguarding in maternity: an introduction (Care Certificate Standard 10/11)

This module is designed to help support MSWs in their role in maternity but it will also be useful for anyone with an interest in issues around safeguarding. It will look at safeguarding of women and children and should be read in conjunction with the relevant Care Certificate Workbooks.

Safeguarding the trafficked child

This i-learn module is designed for midwives and support workers to better understand what child trafficking is and how to ensure that victims are protected from further harm.

eLearning for healthcare training for healthcare professionals

The e-FGM educational programme has been developed by HEE e-Learning for Healthcare and is provided free to all healthcare professionals. Developed in collaboration with key stakeholders, and supported by the Department of Health’s FGM Prevention team, the material deals with the issues posed by FGM at all stages of a girl or woman’s life.

Female Genital Mutilation Risk and Safeguarding Guidance for professionals from the Department of Health

This document provides practical guidance, and is designed to provide an example which can be used to implement day-to-day frontline processes. It is not a substitute for existing multi-agency practice guidelines or statutory guidance.

Commissioning services to support women and girls with female genital mutilation from the Department of Health

This document sets out what some elements of a successful and safe service to support women and girls with female genital mutilation (FGM) might look like. It has been developed in partnership with healthcare professionals currently involved in providing healthcare services, and it aims to highlight what commissioners might want to consider when developing a new service.

FGM guidance for professionals from NHS Choices

You can find supporting materials and videos (including patient information leaflets and health passports in 11 languages) on the NHS Choices website.

Useful links

Girl Generation is a global campaign that supports the Africa-led movement to end FGM.

Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 500 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential.