Harmful practices

Harmful practices includes: Female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and so-called honour-based abuse.

Female genital mutilation (FGM)

Girls and young women at risk of FGM are a vulnerable group. All agencies must work together to identify and protect them.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women and can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.

FGM is abuse of the human rights of girls and women and is therefore a child protection issue. FGM is illegal in the UK and it is illegal to prepare, send or take a child to another country.

Girls may be taken to their countries of origin so that FGM can be carried out during the summer holidays, allowing them time to "heal" before they return to school. There are also worries that some girls may have FGM performed in the UK.

See further information from the NHS and NSPCC.

Statutory guidance on FGM

The Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation is for all persons and bodies in England and Wales.

You must read and follow this guidance if you are under statutory duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and vulnerable adults. You should read this FGM guidance along-side other safeguarding guidance, including (but not limited to) Working Together 2018.

Reporting FGM

Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation: procedural information gives relevant professionals and the Police an understanding of the female genital mutilation (FGM) mandatory reporting duty.

This mandatory reporting duty requires regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM in under 18-year-olds to the Police. The FGM duty came into force on 31 October 2015. This document gives relevant professionals and the Police information what they required to do.

FGM resources and documents

  • GOV.UK has lots of information to raise awareness of FGM and provide advice on preventative measures. 
  • National FGM Centre offers support services.

So called honour based abuse

The definition of “honour” based abuse to be used is: “an incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse) which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and/ or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and/or community’s code of behaviour.”.

Additionally, honour based crimes could include:

  • attempted murder
  • manslaughter
  • procuring an abortion
  • encouraging or assisting suicide
  • conspiracy to murder
  • conspiracy to commit a variety of assaults

Forced marriage

The definition of forced marriage to be used will be in line with the offence under section 121 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

An arranged marriage is very different from a forced marriage. An arranged marriage is entered into freely by both people, although their families take a leading role in the choice of partner.

Forced marriage situations could also involve, for example, the specific offences of:

  • harassment
  • kidnap
  • blackmail
  • false imprisonment
  • common assault, actual/grievous bodily harm
  • threats to kill
  • child abduction
  • rape or other sexual offences
  • immigration offences
  • fraud
  • marriage offences
  • people trafficking
  • controlling, causing or inciting prostitution

Forced Marriage Protection Orders have been introduced to protect victims from being forced into marriage. An order can also be made to protect someone who has already been forced into marriage, to help remove them from the situation. Those who fail to obey an order may be found in contempt of court and sent to prison for up to two years.

See the forced marriage pages on GOV.UK for more information.

Where to find help

  • Bedfordshire Police – call 999 or 101
  • Forced Marriage Unit - Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Karma Nirvana supports victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour-based abuse. It runs the National Honour Network Helpline where call handlers provide confidential listening support, options and guidance to all professionals, victims and survivors of honour based abuse
  • IKWRO - Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation provides advice and support to Middle Eastern women and girls living in the UK who are facing ‘honour’ based violence, domestic abuse, forced marriage or female genital mutilation
  • National Domestic Violence Helpline – service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf
  • Luton All Women’s Centre - Support and services run by women for women
  • ACCM (UK)
  • SafeLives - Spotlight #4: 'Honour'-based violence and forced marriage


Please visit our Safeguarding Bedfordshire website for more information. Click on 'Training Pathways’ on the homepage to help find the right course. 

Or email the Safeguarding Bedfordshire training team at LearningCentral@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.

Local guidance and information