Ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, 6 February 2022, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Josep Borrell Fontelles, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica, Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, and Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, joined together to reaffirm the EU’s strong commitment to eradicate female genital mutilation worldwide and made the following statement:
“Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a crime and a violation of women’s human rights. We must stop it.
There is no justification for such a horrific practice. There are, however, very serious negative consequences that affect the physical and mental health of women and girls, including infections, infertility and chronic pain. This practice puts the lives and wellbeing of thousands of women and girls at risk and in some cases it can even lead to their death.
While many communities have abandoned FGM and cultural norms are changing, leading to a decrease in FGM, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed progress towards its eradication. In times of confinement, maintaining access to prevention, protection and care services remain more important than ever.
Ending all forms of gender-based violence, including FGM, is at the heart of EU equality policies. Since the start of this Commission’s mandate, we stepped up our actions in Europe and globally with the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024, the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and the EU Gender Action Plan III. We presented a comprehensive Strategy on the Rights of the Child, which also sought to put an end to violence against children, including FGM. This year, we will present a legislative proposal to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence, as well as a recommendation on the prevention of harmful practices.
We cannot tolerate violence against women and girls.”
Female genital mutilation comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, as defined by the World Health Organization. FGM is a worldwide issue, which exists in Europe too. It is estimated that 180,000 girls in 13 European countries alone are at risk of being mutilated while 600,000 women are living with the consequences of FGM in Europe. FGM is carried out erroneously for a variety of cultural, religious or social reasons on young girls between infancy and 15 years of age. FGM constitutes a form of child abuse and violence against women; it has severe short- and long-term physical and psychological consequences.
Criminalisation of FGM is required under the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention is signed by all EU Member States and has been ratified by 21 Member States so far. The Commission has been working together with the Council towards the EU’s accession to the Convention. The Commission will put forward a proposal to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence, as well as a specific Recommendation on the prevention of harmful practices.
In addition, through the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV), funding will continue to be provided to Member States’ and civil society-led projects tackling gender-based violence, including FGM. Under the 2021 DAPHNE call for proposals, 40 projects were awarded to be funded with a budget of €17.7 million. The Commission published a new call for proposals with a budget of €30.5 million, open until 12 April 2022, which specifically includes a priority dedicated to combating and preventing violence linked to harmful practices. Currently, with EU funding the CHAIN project is strengthening the prevention, protection and support for victims of FGM and early and forced marriage through, through training, capacity building and awareness raising activities in Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Belgium.
The 1989 UN Convention on the rights of the child, to which all EU Member States are party, also condemns FGM as a form of violence against girls. In 2021, the Commission presented a comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, which contains concrete actions and recommendations on how to effectively prevent and put an end to violence against children, including FGM.
In the context of external action and development cooperation, ending FGM continues to be a key action under the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 and the EU Gender Action Plan 2021-2025. This is reflected in political dialogues as well as concrete actions, for example, through the support to the UNFPA/UNICEF Global Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilationthrough the Spotlight Africa Regional Programme, which dedicated €7.5 million to tackling the practice in 17 partner countries. Despite the restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, around 650,000 women and girls were provided with gender-based violence services, including support to the prevention of harmful practices. The EU also supports projects addressing FGM at country level through its European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). For example, in Somalia, the EU supports the empowerment of CSOs to lobby and advocate for FGM policy adoption; in Sudan, the EU supports the legislative reform for the abandonment of FGM in rural communities.
The New Pact on Migration and Asylum put forward by the Commission in September 2020 aims to reinforce the protection safeguards available to persons with specific needs, in particular, female applicants who have experienced gender-based harm. This includes ensuring access to medical care, legal support, appropriate trauma counselling and psycho-social care at different stages of the asylum procedure.
For More Information
To find out more about female genital mutilation and what the European Union is doing to eliminate this practice, see website.
Research from the European Institute for Gender Equality estimating the number of girls at risk of female genital mutilation in Denmark, Spain, Luxembourg and Austria: FGM study: More girls at risk but community opposition growing (2021)
Watch this video from Commissioner Dalli and MEPs Evelyn Regner and Assita Kanko on Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilations.