Written by Ulla Jurviste and Irene Hennigan
Last update 23 February 2015
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the most brutal violations of human rights against young girls and women. Female genital mutilation consists of the (partial or complete) removal of the external female genitalia, and the infliction of other injuries to the female genitalia for no medical reasons. It is usually carried out on girls between infancy and the age of 15, mainly between the ages of 5 and 8 years of age and occasionally on adult women. This form of gender based violence conflicts with the European Union’s values and fundamental rights. The European Parliament has adopted four resolutions on FGM, most recently in February 2014, calling on the Commission and Member States to provide legal and other means required to raise awareness, protect and support victims and ensure that offenders are prosecuted. The EU is committed to ending this violation, as is stipulated in European Commission’s Strategy for Equality between Women and Men 2010−2015. The Directive 2012/29/EU, which establishes the minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, is an important instrument in support of women and girls, who are victims of and at risk of FGM. The WHO estimate that between 125 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to FGM in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated. This practice also affects people living in the EU, with the European Parliament estimating that around 500,000 have suffered FGM with a further 180,000 women and girls at risk of being subjected to this practice every year. The European Parliament would like to see more concrete deadlines for the EU actions and continues to pursue the EU to adopt a binding instrument to combat gender-based violence.
Please also see the EPRS Plenary at a glance ‘Zero tolerance for female genital mutilation’ by Rosamund Shreeves 30 January 2015
Factsheet on Female Genital Mutilation /EU Delegation to the United Nations, 2015, 1p
International Dimensions of Discrimination and Violence against Girls: A Human Rights Perspective / Yvonne Rafferty; In: Journal of International Women’s Studies, Volume 14, Issue 1 (January) 2013
The paper provides an overview of the international harmful traditional or cultural practices and gender-based social and cultural norms that perpetuate the lower status accorded to girls in the family, the community and society. Recommendations for social policy are presented.
EIGE will in April 2015 release its study “Estimation of girls at risk of female genital mutilation in the European Union” uncovering a methodology to help estimate the number of girls and women at risk or victims of FGM. This methodology has been developed and tested in Ireland, Portugal and Sweden, and offers an approach to measure the prevalence of FGM in the EU.
Country Fact Sheets / EIGE, 2013
The fact sheets present the current situation of FGM and legal framework in the EU Member States.
Resources on FGM / EIGE, 2013
These resources are based on the EIGE’s study mapping the current situation and trends of female genital mutilation in 27 EU Member States and Croatia and present the relevant law in the EU member states.
Methods and Tools on FGM / EIGE, 2013
The publication “Methods and Tools on FGM” gives an overview of various measures taken in EU member states.
Good practices in combating FGM / EIGE, 2013
The study presents good practices in combating female genital mutilation in EU Member States.
Female genital mutilation/cutting / Unicef, 2013 6p
This short study looks at the future forcast if action against FGM/C is not accelerated. As many as 30 million more girls alive today may be cut in the next decade alone. And this number will continue to grow as the population of girls in affected countries rises.
Female genital mutilation in the European Union and Croatia: Report / EIGE, 2013
The Report is based on the EIGE’s study mapping the current situation and trends of female genital mutilation in 27 EU Member States and Croatia. This research is the first EU-wide study on FGM. The results of the project are analysed in the report.
Violence against Women, Its Prevalence and Health Consequences / Claudia García-Morenoa; Heidi Stöcklb; In: Violence against Women and Mental Health. Key Issues of Mental Health. Basel, Karger, 2013, vol 178, pp 1–11
An Unpunished crime: The lack of prosecutions for FGM in the UK /Bindel, Julie, New Culture Forum, 2014, 61p
A UK report from the New Culture Forum writen by Julie Bindel 2014 argues that FGM has been given low priority in the UK as female genital mutilation has been taken less seriously than other forms of violence. France is presented as a model of best practice,having brought 29 cases before the criminal courts between 1979 and 2004. The report suggests a multi-agency approach, using prosecution, medical examinations and reporting as ways of combatting the practice and that not reporting suspected FGM should be made a crime, leading to professionals being more proactive when dealing with the problem. In Europe, too, there have been very few cases brought to court because of the transnational character of the problem as the people concerned are usually in the migrant community who travel out of the country to get the procedure done. Other factors are the secrecy of the communities and the reluctance of professionals to properly investigate complaints and concerns about FGM
Interpreting Signs of Female Genital Mutilation Within a Risky Legal Framework /Lien, Inger-Lise ; Schultz, Jon Hakon Published in International Journal of Law, Policy & The Family, 2014, 18p.
The Norwegian law against female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) was strengthened in 2004 through the addition of a duty to avert that requires extra vigilance from employees in the welfare system, including social workers, nurses and teachers, to protect girls from being subjected to FGM/C. The law against discrimination forbids discrimination based on ethnic background. These two laws may come into conflict and spill over into communicative situations in which the interpretation of the signs of potential future crimes takes place. This article particularly explores the challenges and risks for nurses, teachers and welfare officers in interpreting the early signs of an imminent FGM/C procedure in their attempts to communicate during efforts to avert female genital mutilation. The data is based on the documentation of one particular case, following it through the welfare and legal systems and including a secondary data source of interviews of official employees as well individuals of African descent who live in Norway
The European Parliament has adopted four resolutions on FGM in 2001, 2009, 2012 and 2014 calling on the Commission and MS to provide legal and other means required to raise awareness, protect and support victims and ensure that offenders are prosecuted
Commissioner Jourová speaks out on the International Day against Female Genital Mutilation 06/02/2015
On the occasion of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Commissioner Jourová, together with the HRVP Mogherini and Commissioner Mimica, reaffirms the European Commission’s commitment to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation.The Commission has been supporting work by grassroots NGOs at the heart of communities that practice female genital mutilation and engage with women, girls, men, boys, as well as traditional and religious leaders. An additional € 4.5 million will be made available starting this year to support projects that aim to prevent and combat violence against women and girls linked to harmful practices within the European Union.
Commission Communication ‘Towards the elimination of female genital mutilation’ COM(2013) 833 final, 25.11.2013. The Communication calls, amongst other things, for more reliable and comparable data on the prevalence of FGM at EU level, better training of health and legal professionals and in its external relations, the EU is urged to raise the issue of FGM in annual dialogues and in its work with the African Union. This Communication aims to ensure that action to combat FGM is mainstreamed across multiple fields, including justice, police, health, education etc.
Eliminating female genital mutilation: What is EU doing / EC DG Justice, Gender Equality website, 2013
Consultation on combating female genital mutilation in the EU
A summary of the main outcomes of this public consultation. Important contributions to the consultation results are the replies to the consultations by various international organisations and NGOs, e.g. of the Council of Europe: Consultation on female genital mutilation in the EU / CoE, 2013
Proposal for a Resolution of the Council on a Roadmap for strengthening the rights and protection of victims, in particular in criminal proceedings (Council Presidency proposal 8525/11, 12 April 2011)
See: Measure E: A legal instrument aiming at fighting female genital mutilations
Opinion on an EU initiative on female genital mutilation / Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, EC, 2013
The European Commission asked for the Advisory Committee’s opinion on how to develop measures at EU-level to fight FGM. In this paper the advisory committee presents its opinion.
Council of Europe
Children’s right to physical integrity / Parliamentary Assembly, CoE, Resolution 1952 (2013)
Children’s right to physical integrity / Parliamentary Assembly, CoE, Recommendation 2023 (2013)
Action to combat gender-based human rights violations, including abduction of women and girls: Resolution / Parliamentary Assembly, CoE, RES 1662, 28/04/2009
Action to combat gender-based human rights violations, including abduction of women and girls: Recommendation / Parliamentary Assembly, CoE, REC 1868, 28/04/2009
Research gaps in the care of women with female genital mutilation: an analysis /Abdulcadir J, Rodriguez MI, Say L. . BJOG February 2015; Volume122 p294–303,
Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitals for non-therapeutic reasons. They can have negative psychosexual and health consequences that need specific care. In this paper, we review some key knowledge gaps in the clinical care of women with FGM, focusing on obstetric outcomes, surgical interventions (defibulation and clitoral reconstruction), and the skills and training of healthcare professionals involved in the prevention and management of FGM. We identify research priorities to improve the evidence necessary to establish guidelines for the best multidisciplinary care, communication, and prevention, and to improve health-promotion measures for women with FGM
Female genital mutilation / Fact sheet N°241 ( Updated February 2014)
Research and evidence on FGM
WHO’s research seeks to generate knowledge about the causes and consequences of FGM, how to eliminate it, and how to care for those who have experienced FGM. Summaries of other research in the following areas are also provided along with full texts where available. Overview of FGM research includes health consequences; prevalence and classification; treatment; medicalization; behaviour change.
FGM is now a prosecutable offence under national laws in all Member States, either as a specific criminal act or as an act of bodily harm or injury. A number of Member States have developed national action plans on FGM
Female genital mutilation: the case for a national action plan – Second Report of Session 2014–15 / UK House of Commons Home Affairs Committee 25 June 2014, 59p.
This UK report provides a good overview of the situation in the UK, including a look at prosecutions of offenders who carry out this procedure in the UK, it also looks at safeguarding measures for girls at risk of FGM. It provides links to other useful reports on FGM.
Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women / United Nations
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Collins and Akaziebie v. Sweden /ECHR (case No 23944/05) 2007
Omeredo v. Austria / ECHR (case No 8969/10) 2011
Female genital mutilation as a reason to obtain asylum in the European Union / Kathrin A. Schwerdtfeger, University of Twente (2012)
This study aims to research Female Genital Mutilation asylum cases brought to the European Court of Human Rights and National courts of Member States of the European Union. The cases will be researched for the criteria used for the final court decision. How were they used, were different arguments made based on the same criterion? While giving a background on Female Genital Mutilation in general and on the asylum law provision of the EU, the study will finally answer the proposed research question: How are Human Rights criteria applied to Female Genital Mutilation Asylum cases in the European Union?
Case Law 332491/2013 (23/12/2012) / Judgment of the National Courts / Conseil d’État
The decision, in the matter of the risk of female genital mutilation and right to asylum, recalls the Convention of Geneva of 1951 and the EU legislation.
Case Law – (27/11/2012) / Judgment; National Courts: Merit’s Courts (Italy) – Corte di Appello di Catania
The judgment, in the matter of seriousness of the risk of female genital mutilation, in order to be granted the recognition of the refugee status, recalls the jurisprudence of the Court of Strasbourg.
Case Law 1342/2007 (20/06/2007) / Decree; National Courts: Merit’s Courts (Spain) – Tribunale di Girona
The expulsion of a child in danger of genital mutilation must be prohibited also in the light of the European Charter of the rights of the child.
Too Much Pain : Female Genital Mutilation & Asylum in the European Union – A Statistical Overview / UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), February 2013
The study provides some of the statistical evidence needed to advance the discussion on the necessary policies and tools to address the specific vulnerabilities of female asylum-seekers with FGM in the asylum system on the one hand, and of refugee girls and women living with FGM and integrating in EU Member States on the other hand.