End FGM EU writes its recommendations to the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU

Estonia takes on the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) for the first time since its accession to the EU. The Estonian mandate opens the Trio formed with Bulgaria and Austria. The Trio programme emphasises a key area on empowerment and protection of all citizens, which is of particular interest to the End FGM European Network, since it entails: gender equality, gender mainstreaming, the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, empowering young people, coordinated approach to migration, assessment of the best interest of the child, protection of human rights, international cooperation and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Furthermore, the Network welcomes the Trio Presidency Declaration on Equality between Men and Women, which stresses that eliminating all forms of gender-based violence is a precondition for achieving gender equality and highlights the importance of coordinated efforts at EU and Member States level towards this end.

We also welcome Estonia’s commitment to promote more efficient and systematic application of gender mainstreaming in all policy areas of the EU, as well as gender equality and equal opportunities for women and men, particularly through promoting work-life balance, in terms of reducing impacts of gender stereotypes through education, equal access to the labour market and equal sharing of parental and home responsibilities.

Building on these elements, on the Council Conclusions Council Conclusions "Preventing and combating all forms of violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation" of June 2014, on the Trio Presidency Declaration on Equality between Men and Women and on the programme and priorities of the Estonian Presidency on an inclusive and sustainable Europe, the Network wrote a letter, calling on the Presidency and the Council to act, in the scope of its competences to:

  • Ensure human rights remain a core priority in the EU agenda, notably by mainstreaming human rights issues when relevant in EU legislation and policy, both externally and internally.
  • Mainstream gender into the Council’s contributions to EU legislation and policy, in particular those related to human rights, migration and international protection, women’s rights, children’s rights and the fight against gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation (FGM).

International protection

  • Work with the European Commission and Member States to ensure the effective transposition and implementation in all EU Member States of Directive 2012/29/EU (Victims’ Rights Directive), Directive 2011/95/EU (Qualification Directive), Directive 2013/32/EU (Asylum Procedures Directive) and Directive 2013/33/EU (Reception Conditions Directive) and work towards a revision of the Qualification Directive that maintains a strong focus on vulnerable groups and FGM as a ground for international protection.
  • In line with the Estonian priority “Safe and Secure Europe”, continue the work to reform the Common European Asylum System to be voted on in 2017, in particular by ensuring these proposals:
    • Mainstream gender and human rights to enhance the protection of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees.
    • Give clear guidelines to Member States as regards the international protection of vulnerable groups fleeing past or fear of persecution, including FGM survivors and persons at risk of FGM e.g. gender and child sensitivity, access to female interviewers and interpreters, credibility assessment taking trauma into account, gendered data collection, acknowledgement of past persecution etc. and ensure that all these elements are reflected in the revision process of the Qualification Directive.
    • Develop high standards as regards the qualification process, the asylum procedures process and the reception conditions of asylum-seekers and refugees to ensure the respect of human rights and international law.
    • Create an effective and adequately funded EU Agency for Asylum to support Member States, in particular on country of origin information, training of asylum officers and fairness of the asylum system.
    • Involve tailored training of professionals e.g. health practitioners, public officers etc., notably on gender issues and gender-based violence, including FGM.

Istanbul Convention and the Sustainable Development Goals

  • Work towards Estonia’s ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) by the end of the EU Presidency Semester, and encourage and invite all EU Member States to ratify and implement it.
  • Ensure ratification of the Istanbul Convention in its entirety by the EU and that there is full unreserved implementation. Furthermore, ensure that a clear, specific and detailed Code of Conduct is adopted as a framework for EU and Member States’ actions. Finally, ensure that an EU Coordinator on ending violence against women is appointed within the European Commission to overview the implementation.
  • Work with relevant stakeholders, notably the EEAS, the UN, EU Member States’ governments and third countries to develop internal and external joint actions towards the implementation of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development, with particular attention to SDG 5.3 on eliminating all harmful practices, and the European Consensus on Development.

Data collection and funding

  • Encourage data collection using a common methodology on the prevalence of gender-based violence in each Member State, including in the asylum system, with a special focus on FGM. Ensure the cross-border coordination and sharing of collected data through e-databases among Member States.
  • Work in collaboration with the European Parliament and the European Commission to ensure sustainable funding on relevant matters e.g. joint programmes between EU and third-countries organisations, programmes against harmful practices and violence against women, community-based awareness-raising and behavioural change programmes etc.

Member States and EU Institutions

  • Call for Member States and EU Institutions and agencies to develop actions and programmes against violence against women in the framework of the year of focused actions to end VAW in 2017.
  • Call for Member States and the European Commission to develop and fund education and awareness-raising actions and programmes on human rights and on gender-based violence, including on FGM and in collaboration with FGM-affected communities.
  • Call for Member States to ensure appropriate training of relevant professionals (health practitioners, public officers, police, teachers, social workers etc.) and access to holistic and specialised services to address the issue of gender-based violence, including FGM.
  • Call for Member States to develop actions and programmes to end VAW dedicated to prevention and protection from violence, including FGM, and to collaborate with each other and with third-country partners to identify and implement promising practices in this area.