FGM can take diverse forms and have different effects on girls and women. In any case it entails the cutting, stitching or removal of part or all of the female external genital organs for non-therapeutic reasons. The mutilation of healthy body parts has a detrimental impact on the health and well being of women and girls. In addition, it constitutes a violation of women and girl’s human rights.

Each year, 180,000 girls and women in Europe are estimated to be at risk of FGM. However, research1 has shown that there are still many challenges in Europe that need to be addressed in order to develop adequate national and European policies on FGM:

  • The lack of data and research to properly determine the prevalence of FGM and to assess related needs for state policies and services in Europe;
  • The need to take preventive measures and to evaluate their impact to ensure they are organised in a sustainable way;
  • The need to enhance the capacity of professionals likely to be in contact with women and girls living with or at risk of FGM to enhance their protection (e.g. professionals from the health, social, education, asylum and justice sector, etc.);
  • A common approach to the implementation of existing policies on international protection and, where necessary, the development of new European policies that are in line with international standards and guidelines to better protect those seeking asylum on the grounds of FGM and affected women and girls within the asylum system;
  • The need to remove obstacles to the prosecution of FGM cases while taking into account the best interest of the child;
  • The lack of a systematic approach to the provision of services relating to FGM and the need for culturally sensitive services;
  • Better involvement of affected communities and the development of partnerships between relevant stakeholders, including CSOs, governments and relevant professionals.

Thanks to regional and national mobilisations, there is a growing awareness of the problem in Europe compared to previous years, when many member states in Europe perceived that FGM was not common or not practised at all in their country. It is foreseen that the recent developments at the European Union (EU) level - under the forms of the European Commission Communication on the elimination of FGM2 as endorsed by the European Parliament3 and the Council of EU4 (hereafter the EU Action Plan) - and the Council of Europe - Istanbul Convention5 - as well as adoption of the United Nations (UN) Resolution on eliminating FGM6 will give stronger impetus to this trend. They all contribute strongly to putting an end to this harmful practice in Europe and beyond.

The issue of FGM affects, and is linked to, a number of different issues addressed by EU policies affecting girls and women in Europe and other parts of the world. FGM impacts women and girls’ equality and rights. In the EU’s internal policy-making, FGM is recognised as a form of violence against women and girls and a violation of children’s rights. In addition, FGM impacts on the development agenda, the EU and its member states being the biggest Aid donors in the world, they need to be closely associated with the global movement to curb this practice. Finally, the EU member states have obligations to offer better protection to refugee and asylum seekers at risk of, or living with, FGM.

One of the key objectives of the Network is to ensure that FGM remains high on the political agenda of the EU and its member states so that concrete action to end FGM is taken. The Network will build on the successes of the Amnesty International’s END FGM European Campaign, its branding and reputation recognised by EU institutions and the Council of Europe.

1. EIGE (2013), Female genital mutilation in the European Union and Croatia, European Union, Belgium, available at http://eige.europa.eu/sites/default/files/EIGE-Report-FGM-in-the-EU-and-Croatia_0.pdf; Leye E. (2008), Female genital mutilation, A study of health services and legislation in some countries of the European Union, p.175; UNHCR (2013), Too much pain: female genital mutilation & asylum in the European Union - A statistical overview, available at www.unhcr.org/531880249.pdf; see also its update published in March 2014, available at www.unhcr.org/53187f379.html

2. European Commission (2013) , Communication: Towards the elimination of female genital mutilation, COM(2013)833

3. European Parliament (2014), Resolution of 6 February 2014 on the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards the elimination of female genital mutilation’ (2014/2511(RSP))

4. Council of the European Union, Conclusions on Preventing and combating all forms of violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation, Justice and Home Affairs meeting, Luxembourg, 5 and 6 June 2014

5. Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, CETS No.: 210

6. UN General Assembly, Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly , 5 March 2013, A/RES/67/146