Brussels, 6 March 2013
International Women’s Day: Zero tolerance for female genital mutilation
Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström have today joined human rights campaigners to call for zero tolerance for female genital mutilation (FGM). The Commission organised a high-level roundtable event to discuss how the European Union can help Member States to eradicate the practice – thought to have affected several hundred thousand women in the EU. The Commissioners were joined by Members of the European Parliament and the world’s leading anti-FGM campaigners, including ‘desert flower’ Waris Dirie, Khady Koita and Chantal Compaoré – First Lady of Burkina Faso.
In parallel, today the Commission launched a public consultation calling for views on how best to develop measures at EU level to fight female genital mutilation. The consultation will run until 30 May 2013. The Commission has also 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.
“Today the European Commission is joining forces with some very inspiring women to call for zero tolerance for female genital mutilation. This is an extremely harmful practice which violates the human rights of women and girls. The EU will fight to end female genital mutilation – not only on International Women's Day, but on all 365 days of the year,” said Vice-President Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner."I call on everyone with an insight in this area to share their views on how to best tackle female genital mutilation."
"Female genital mutilation is a severe violation of human rights. The risk of being subjected to this practice should constitute a valid reason for granting asylum or humanitarian protection. In our asylum legislation, we are paying particular attention to women and girls who are seeking asylum due to the threat of physical mutilation. Women and girls who are at risk of female genital mutilation, or parents who fear persecution because they refuse to have their child undergo this practice should be given suitable protection in Europe," said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.
New report on FGM
Today's high-level roundtable discussion on FGM comes as the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) releases a new report on female genital mutilation in the EU, following a request by Vice-President Reding. The report concludes that FGM is by nature a global, transnational phenomenon. While there is no hard evidence of FGM being practised in the EU, thousands of women and girls living in the EU have been subjected to the practice either before moving to the EU or while travelling outside the EU.
The report finds that there are victims, or potential victims, 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 highlights the need for rigorous data as a basis for tackling the problem.
Eradicating 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 and Croatia 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.
EIGE has therefore also published a report identifying a series of good practices from nine Member States in combating FGM. The report gives examples of successful policies and projects, including:
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 age 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 and very rarely in the territory of the EU.
The 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 female genital mutilation. On 6 February 2013 which is the International Day against Female Genital Mutilation, the European Commission reaffirmed its strong commitment to eradicating this extremely harmful practice (MEMO/13/67).
For more information
European Commission – Ending gender-based violence:
Public consultation –
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Facebook: Send your 'Zero Tolerance Photos':
Twitter Hashtag: #zeroFGM
Annex 1: Estimated number of women victims, potential victims, and girls at risk of FGM (where studies are 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)
Annex 2: Support organisations for victims of FGM in the Member States