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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 25 November 2013

International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women: European Commission takes action to combat Female Genital Mutilation

On the occasion of the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, the European Commission has today announced – in a strategy paper – a new push to fight female genital mutilation (FGM) in the European Union and beyond. The practice, internationally recognised as a violation of women’s human rights and as a form of child abuse, is thought to have affected 500,000 victims in the EU alone, and more than 125 million worldwide. To fight FGM, the Commission will make full use of future EU funding to help prevent the practice; improve support for victims; support health practitioners, as well as national enforcement of anti-FGM laws; and improve protection under EU asylum rules for women at risk. The Commission and the European External Action Service have also committed to promoting worldwide elimination of FGM through bilateral and multilateral dialogue. Finally, the Commission will encourage more research into the number of women and girls at risk. Today's action plan is a follow-up to the public consultation on FGM launched by the Commisison in march (IP/13/189).

Earlier this year, the European Commission teamed up with inspiring campaigners to call for zero tolerance for female genital mutilation,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner."Today we are delivering. In an action plan the Commission is reiterating our commitment to combating violence against women and eliminating FGM, both in the EU and at global level. But let's be clear: the Commisison cannot do it alone. We will work hand in hand with Member States, the UN, NGOs and with the communitites affected. I am convinced that together we will be able to consign female genital mutilation to history."

"Zero tolerance for female genital mutilation is a policy to which the European Union is committed throughout its external action. We are engaged with partner countries around the world in working towards the eradication of this act that violates the rights of women and girls and harms them in many ways. The adoption of this strategy today is a demonstration of our joint commitment. The EU's tools and resources, political and economic, will be used to promote initiatives and support laws to help create a world where no girl will have to face this cruel and intolerable practice," said the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-president of the European Commission Catherine Ashton.

Today’s policy communication from the Commission sets out a series of actions to work towards the elimination of FGM, including:

  1. Better understanding of the phenomenon: developing indicators (through the European Institute of Gender Equality and at national level) to better understand numbers of women and girls affected by and at risk of mutilation;

  2. Prevention of FGM and victim support: making use of EU funding (such as the EU's Daphne programme, the Lieflong Learning and Youth in Action programme and the future Asylum and Migration fund) to support activities to prevent FGM, raising awareness of the problem, empowering migrant women and girls, and training health professionals and those working with victims. During 2013, the Commission distributed €2.3 million to projects specifically fighting FGM (see examples in annex 1);

  3. More effective prosecution by Member States: support enforcement of the existing national laws prohibiting FGM through the analysis of criminal laws and court cases brought so far, disseminating training material for legal practitioners, and enforcement of rights of victims to specialist support as under EU law;

  4. Protection of women at risk on EU territory: ensuring correct implementation of EU asylum rules (notably the revised Qualifications Directive and the Asylum Procedures Directive) to guarantee protection of women at risk, raising awareness of professionals working with asylum and encouraging Member States to resettle children and women at risk by providing support through the European Refugee Fund and the future Asylum and Migration Fund.

  5. Working to eliminate FGM at global level: addressing FGM in bilateral dialogues with relevant partner countries, working with the African Union and at the United Nations to promote global initiatives against FGM, advocating for improved national legislation and supporting civil society initiatives in countries affected, training and guidance for staff in EU delegations on FGM-related issues.

To ensure the various actions are followed up and remain on the polticial agenda continously, the Commission has also committed to monitoring and taking stock of progress on an annual basis around 6 February: the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.

Background

Female genital mutilation (FGM) 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 Organisation (WHO).

FGM is carried out for cultural, religious and/or social reasons on young girls between infancy and the age of 15. FGM constitutes a form of child abuse and violence against women and girls; it has severe short-term and long-term physical and psychological consequences.

In the EU countries where women victims or girls and women at risk of FGM live, the practice mainly occurs during a stay in the country of origin but there are also indications of FGM happening in the territory of the EU.

A recent report by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) found that there are victims, or potential victims of FGM, in at least 13 EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and the UK. However, it also highlighted the need for rigorous data as a basis for tackling the problem.

The European Commission adopted a ‘Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015’ on 21 September 2010, setting out a series of priorities for gender equality, including ending gender-based violence. The strategy included a specific reference to combating FGM. On 6 February 2013 which is the International Day against Female Genital Mutilation, the European Commission reaffirmed its strong commitment to eliminating this extremely harmful practice (MEMO/13/67).

On 6 March 2013, Vice-President Reding and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström joined human rights campaigners to call for zero tolerance for FGM at a high-level roundtable event to discuss how the European Union can help Member States to eliminate the practice (IP/13/189). The Commission announced EUR 3.7 million in funding to support Member States' activities to raise awareness of violence against women and a further EUR 11.4 million for NGOs and others working with victims. It also launched a public consultation on tackling FGM, the results of which helped to prepare today’s policy Communication.

Eliminating FGM will require a range of actions focusing on data collection, prevention, protection of girls at risk, prosecution of perpetrators and provision of services for victims, says the report. Victims of FGM can rely on protection under the EU’s Victims Rights Directive, adopted on 4 October 2012, which explicitly refers to FGM as a form of gender-based violence (IP/12/1066).

But while all EU Member States have legal provisions in place to prosecute the perpetrators of FGM, either under general or specific criminal laws, prosecutions are very rare. This is due to diffculties detecting cases, gathering sufficient evidence, a reluctance to report a crime and, above all, a lack of knowledge about female genital mutilation.

A separate report by EIGE identified a series of good practices from nine Member States in combating FGM, such as:

  1. A Dutch project to prevent FGM by bringing together healthcare professionals, police, schools, child protection services and migrant organisations;

  2. A French organisation which focuses on bringing prosecutions in cases of FGM by acting as a ‘civil party’ in trials;

  3. A specialised health service in the UK with 15 clinics that cater to the specific needs of women affected by FGM.

Further information

European Commission – Ending gender-based violence:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-violence

Report by the European Institute for Gender Equality – Female genital mutilation in the EU & Croatia

National factsheets by the European Institute for Gender Equality – Female genital mutilation in the EU & Croatia

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Facebook: Send your 'Zero Tolerance Photos':

COMM-SOCIAL-MEDIA-TEAM@ec.europa.eu

Twitter Hashtag: #zeroFGM

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter

@VivianeRedingEU

Follow EU Justice on Twitter

@EU_Justice

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)

Annex 1: Examples of European Commission-funded projects to support Member States' and civil society organisations in raising awareness of female genital mutilation

  • The French Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Administration will create a campaign aimed at raising awareness of measures recently introduced to combat female genital mutilation (FGM). A leaflet will be designed and widely distributed. (258,000 EUR)

  • The UK Home Office will develop a project that aims to raise awareness about FGM as a child protection issue and to combat the practice. It includes a targeted communications campaign signposting the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) FGM helpline, the development of training programmes about FGM and the procedures to follow for professionals with responsibilities for safeguarding and protecting children, and organising a European FGM Skill Exchange Workshop. (340,000 EUR)

  • The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality for Men and Women in Malta will raise awareness of and provide information on FGM, including among professionals who work with victims or perpetrators. Activities include a study on female genital mutilation in Malta, leaflets for healthcare professionals and for migrant women on FGM and training for relevant professionals and legal experts who encounter victims or perpetrators in their work. (300,000 EUR)

  • The project "CREATE YouthNet" implemented by FORWARD (UK) aims to safeguard young people from harmful practices, in particular female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, by empowering them to be confident advocates for change and peer mentors within their communities. The project consists of training and mentoring young people, mapping key agencies' work with young people, creating a European Network of youth advocates and a National Youth Network, and developing youth-friendly materials and creative campaigns targeting schools, young people and community stakeholders. (317,000 EUR)

  • The project "Change: Promoting Behaviour Change Towards the Eradication of FGM" run by Terre des Femmes (Germany) aims to enable practising communities across the EU to advocate against FGM by empowering influential members within these communities. The project includes specialised training for key professionals and promotes dialogue within the communities. The project will develop a Europe-wide training manual for Member States, NGOs and wider stakeholders. An international conference organised by Euronet-FGM – a network of more than 35 member organisations from 15 European countries tackling FGM – will guarantee a broad dissemination of the project’s results and the training manual. (380,000 EUR)

  • Coventry University is developing a project involving working with the original Somali and Sudanese communities from the REPLACE project funded under Daphne in 2010-11, which took a health behaviour change approach, combined with participatory action research methods to identify particular behaviours and attitudes that contribute to FGM within the EU. It will apply the findings and the REPLACE approach and devise new strategies for change in these communities. Activities include applying the REPLACE approach and toolkit to FGM-practising communities in other EU countries through community-based workshops to identify facilitators and barriers to change. (535,000 EUR)

Annex 2: Estimated number of women victims, potential victims, and girls at risk of FGM (where studies are available)

Country

Criminal law provisions against FGM

Estimated no. of women with FGM (date of study)

Estimated no. of girls at risk of FGM

Estimated no. of women from FGM-affected regions living in the EU (where no FGM-specific data is available)

Belgium

Specific

6,260 (2011)

1,975

Bulgaria

General

No data available

No data available

Czech Republic

General

No data available

No data available

Denmark

Specific

No data available

No data available

15,116

Germany

General

19,000 (2007)

4,000

Estonia

General

No data available

No data available

Ireland

Specific

3,170 (2011)

No data available

Greece

General

1,239 (2006)

No data available

Spain

Specific

No data available

No data available

30,439

France

General

61,000 (2007)

No data available

Italy

Specific

35,000 (2009)

1,000

Cyprus

Specific

No data available

No data available

1,500

Latvia

General

No data available

No data available

Lithuania

General

No data available

No data available

Luxembourg

General

No data available

No data available

Hungary

General

170-350 (2012)

No data available

Malta

General

No data available

No data available

Netherlands

General

29,210 (2013)

40-50 each year

Austria

Specific

8,000 (2000)

No data available

Poland

General

No data available

No data available

Portugal

General

No data available

No data available

9,263

Romania

General

No data available

No data available

Slovenia

General

No data available

No data available

Slovakia

General

No data available

No data available

Finland

General

No data available

No data available

4,400

Sweden

Specific

No data available

No data available

91,420

UK

General

65,790 (2007)

30,000

Croatia

Specific

No data available

No data available

Source: EIGE: Female genital mutilation in the European Union and Croatia, except from the Netherlands: Marja Exterkate - Female Genital Mutilation in the Netherlands. Prevalence, incidence and determinants (2013)


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