Ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), on 6 February 2023, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borrell, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Demography and Democracy, 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 is a human rights violation and a form of violence against women and girls. FGM has no health benefits and causes life-long harm for women and girls.
It affects over 200 million people worldwide, of whom, 600,000 are estimated to live in Europe. We must take determined action to bring about change, eradicate this practice if we are to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (target 5.3) deadline of Zero FGM by 2030.
Transforming social and gender norms by partnering with men and boys is key to ending FGM. The EU has been supporting the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation with €18.5 million since 2016, establishing 1,758 coalitions of men and boys.
Last year, the Commission proposed EU-wide rules to combat violence against women. The new rules will include the criminalisation of FGM throughout the EU. This year, we will also present a recommendation on how to prevent harmful practices against women and girls in the first place.
Often FGM is not performed in the EU, but rather in a third country, where girls are brought for that purpose. As of March, police and border guards will be alerted when they are dealing with a person at risk of gender-based violence, including FGM, thanks to the upgraded Schengen Information System.
As we celebrate 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year, it is due time for women and girls to be free from violence once and for all. It is our responsibility to protect their right to safety and bodily autonomy. FGM must end.”
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 Organization. It is estimated that 190,000 girls in 17 European countries alone are at risk of being mutilated while 600,000 women are living with the consequences of FGM in Europe. Every year at least 20,000 women and girls are coming to Europe from FGM-risk countries as asylum seekers. FGM is carried out erroneously for a variety of cultural or social reasons on young girls between infancy and the age of 15. FGM constitutes a form of violence against women and girls; it has severe life-long physical and psychological consequences.
The European Commission is strongly committed to ending all forms of gender-based violence in line with the Union’s equality policies. This commitment is outlined within the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024, the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, the EU Gender Action Plan III, and the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, which aims to end violence against children, including FGM both inside and outside the EU. In line with these policies and our commitment to end FGM in Europe and globally, we support and cooperate with survivors, affected families and communities, experts and policymakers.
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 and remains fully committed to EU accession.
On 8 March 2022, the Commission put forward a new proposal to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence and will adopt a specific Recommendation on the prevention of harmful practices, including FGM in 2023. This would include additional, specialised support and protection for its victims.
The Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV) offers funding for projects tackling gender-based violence, including FGM. Under the 2022 DAPHNE call for proposals, ten projects were selected and awarded €5.6 million to tackle issues such as the prevention of child marriage in the Roma community in Bulgaria, safe spaces for migrant women and girls to share their experiences in Luxembourg, and more generally, engaging young people to prevent FGM in Europe.
By 7 March, national authorities will be able to rely on the renewed Schengen Information System. It will provide national authorities with a new alert category to prevent the travel of potential identified victims, protecting vulnerable women and girls at risk of becoming victims of gender-based violence, including FGM.
The 1989 UN Convention on the rights of the child, to which all EU Member States are party, also condemns violence against children, including FGM. In 2021, the Commission adopted a comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, which contains concrete actions and recommendations to end all forms of 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 support to the UNFPA/UNICEF Global Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, the Team Europe Initiative on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Africa, and 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 while, in Sudan, the EU supports the legislative reform for the abandonment of FGM in rural communities.
The EU has also been supporting the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation with a total contribution of €18.5 million since 2016. The EU seeks to transform social and gender norms by partnering with men and boys, which is key to ending FGM. By 2021, the programme had established 1,758 coalitions of men and boys to actively advocate for the elimination of FGM in their families and communities.
The Pact on migration and asylum put forward by the Commission in September 2020 also aims to reinforce the protection safeguards available to persons with special needs, and ensures eligibility for international protection for women and girls with a fear of persecution or facing the risk of suffering FGM.
For More Information
European Commission webpages on ending Gender-based violence
Factsheet – Myth-busting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Research from the European Institute for Gender Equality on prevalence of female genital mutilation