Ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation (6 February 2016) High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, the EU's Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Commissioner Vĕra Jourova, and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica made the following statement:
Every human being, every girl, every woman has the right to live a life free from violence and pain, free in all its aspects. Female Genital Mutilation inflicts harm and causes lifelong health risks and suffering. It is a violation of human rights, the rights of the child, and a threat to the universal values of dignity, physical integrity and non-discrimination. Nothing can justify it.
Over 200 million women are estimated to have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation worldwide, 500,000 of those in Europe. These appalling figures compel us to further our commitment to the elimination of this largely underestimated and hidden form of violence, comparable to torture.
The European Union wants to eliminate this practice and protect young girls. Change has to come from the hearts of local communities. We need to continue to raise awareness on Female Genital Mutilation and to educate people, regardless of background, culture or gender on women's rights. A local leader who publicly renounces this practice can have a huge impact on his or her own community. We support the work of men and women who speak out against Female Genital Mutilation, who play an important role in educating their peers, and who help to reverse the stigma surrounding girls who have not been submitted to this harmful practice. Commission funds have also trained healthcare professionals so that victims of Female Genital Mutilation have access to quality medical assistance.
The European Union also protects those who have already undergone this practice, through asylum procedures and Directives on victims' rights. Abroad, we finance projects of local and international civil society organisations, give support to national Female Genital Mutilation abandonment strategies and raise concerns with governments bilaterally. We are also supporting a new project led by United Nations agencies in sixteen African countries and Yemen, to accelerate progress in this fight.
We must continue to all work together – European Union institutions, national governments, healthcare professionals, educators, child protection services, community leaders and families alike – to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation and all forms of gender-based violence. Our battle is still far from won.
To find out more about Female Genital Mutilation and what the European Union is doing to eliminate this practice, see this factsheet.