Many international instruments firmly condemn FGM as a violation of human rights and a form of gender-based violence. Yet, it is still practiced.
This is the context in which the BEFORE project was born:
Women and girls
subjected to FGM
in the EU
*EP Resolution 2012/2684(RSP)
Women and girls at risk in the EU
*EP Resolution 2012/2684(RSP)
Women and girls have undergone FGM in at least 30 countries
EU countries in which FGM is illegal. Still, it continues to take place
The Istanbul Convention
recognises FGM as a human rights violation, a form of gender-based violence and a major obstacle to the achievement of equality, and
calls on signatories to criminalise it
The UN General Assembly
FGM to be banned worldwide with Resolution 67/146
European Parliament Resolutions (2001, 2012, 2018, 2020) to end FGM
Harmonised database on FGM prevalence at the EU level
What are FGM?Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a violation of human rights, a form of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) which is deeply rooted in gender disparity. For 200 million women in more than 30 countries worldwide, the transition from childhood to adulthood is marked by the violence of genital mutilation that dramatically affects their psychophysical integrity. Mutilations are classified in 4 types: Type 1 (clitoridectomy): partial or total removal of the clitoris Type 2 (excision): partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and labia minora (internal folds of the vulva), with or without excision of the labia majora (external skin folds of the vulva) Type 3 (infibulation): narrowing of the vaginal orifice, performed by sectioning and repositioning the labia minora, or the labia majora, sometimes by suture, with or without removal of the foreskin/hood and clitoral glans (Type 1) Type 4: all other harmful interventions on the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genitals. A number of international instruments (international and regional treaties, recommendations and general comments of treaty monitoring bodies, UN Resolutions) firmly condemn FGM as a violation of a number of human rights. It violates the right of the child as well as women’s and girls’ rights to equality, to life, to physical and mental integrity, to the highest attainable standard of health, to security of the person, and dignity, to be free from gender discrimination and from violence, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Are FGM practiced in Europe?The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) has also spread to Europe. It is estimated that 500,000 women or girls residing on the European continent have been subjected to genital mutilation and that 150,000 are at risk of it. These alarming figures raise the need for prevention and support policies that guarantee access to health and justice services and ensure the full implementation of existing legal instruments that prohibit this practice.
Why don't we have more data about this phenomenon?Being able to ascertain the prevalence within member states is of paramount importance in developing effective policy, legislative and financial measures to prevent and combat FGM as well as to assess the results of their implementation. However, within European Union member states, a variety of methodologies is used to collect data to measure prevalence, with the result that it is impossible to compare the data. Compared to African countries, where FGM prevalence is reported at regular intervals through self-reported data in a module on FGM included in the Demographic and Health, Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), no systematic data collection on FGM is available in Europe. This makes it impossible to produce an aggregated estimate for all EU Member States. However, the subject of FGM is a complex subject on which it is, and has been, difficult to gather completely accurate data. For more information look at this section.
Can a woman or girl who has suffered or is at risk of suffering FGM request asylum in the EU?Yes, she can. To find out more see our page on protection. According to UNHCR, a girl or woman seeking asylum because she has been forced to undergo, or is likely to be subjected to, FGM can qualify for refugee status under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. UNHCR Guidance Note on Refugee Claims relating to FGM, May 2009, states that “[…] a woman can be considered as a refugee if she or her daughters fear being compelled to undergo FGM against their will; or, she fears persecution for refusing to undergo or to allow her daughters to undergo the practice”. All forms of FGM are a gender-related violence significantly harmful for both mental and physical health and equivalent to a continuous and ongoing persecution. However, there is a reluctance by States to grant refugee status to women and girls on the grounds of FGM: the UNHCR statistical report of February 2013 noted that asylum applications based on FGM remained constant between 2008 and 2011, even though the total number of women seeking asylum increased by 43% during the same period. UNHCR Guidance Note on Refugee Claims relating to FGM, May 2009, states that “[…] a woman can be considered as a refugee if she or her daughters fear being compelled to undergo FGM against their will; or, she fears persecution for refusing to undergo or to allow her daughters to undergo the practice”.
What is the value of this project for other EU countries?The development of common working methods, standards, guidelines and procedures generates valuable transferable experience and practical solutions for other EU countries which also face FGM challenges to act proactively. This project, through advocacy and exchange of best practices and knowledge, can contribute to increase prevention and response to FGM in EU countries, to improve cross-border collaboration and to harmonise policies and measures promoting and protecting women’s human rights.
I want to get involved in the fight against FGM! What can I do?Learn. Donate. Spread the voice.