Response Statement: Landmark FGM Prosecution Case in Switzerland

At least 500,000 women living in the EU have undergone the harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and close to 180,000 young women are at risk from it every year. End FGM European network (End FGM EU) is a European umbrella organisation consisting of 21 national NGO experts on FGM, in 12 EU Member States joining the forces of communities and civil society organisations and building synergies and cooperation with all relevant actors in Europe and globally to end FGM through coordinated actions and engagement.

Commenting on the recent case in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, regarding the sentencing of a Somali woman for the genital mutilation of her two daughters who has received a “symbolic” 8 months in prison, Fiona Coyle, Director of End FGM EU said: Robust legal frameworks and their implementation are critical in the fight against FGM, but prosecution doesn’t equal protection for girls and women subjected to cutting. It means a case where FGM hasn’t been prevented.”

The Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, also known as the Istanbul Convention, provides a useful framework for tackling FGM which is based on prevention, protection, prosecution and integrated policies. Building on this framework, and with the best interests of child in mind, End FGM EU campaigns for increased efforts to ‘prevent and protect’ those under threat of undergoing FGM by empowering practicing communities to abandon the practice and training professionals encountering FGM situations to be better sensitized in dealing with and handling potential cases of FGM.

Recognising the importance of prevention, in 2017 End FGM EU together with partners launched an online knowledge platform, “United to End FGM”, a free training programme in 9 languages aimed at key professionals and frontline staff who have safeguarding and care responsibilities. This platform assists in equipping professionals from different sectors with skills and confidence to respond effectively to the special needs of affected girls and women and those at risk.

Ms Coyle added “While legislation and prosecutions are important, it is not always enough. Ending FGM should not only be about prosecution but also, and most importantly, about prevention and protection. Our mission is a world free from all forms of FGM. This requires long-term investment and funding to change a deeply ingrained, centuries old, harmful practice. Behavioral change is an extremely difficult undertaking, but by investing in holistic programmes at both grassroots and international level we can end FGM for good.”



End FGM European Network

The End FGM European Network (End FGM EU) is a European umbrella organisation consisting of 21 national NGO experts on female genital mutilation (FGM), in 12 EU Member States.

Our vision is a world free of all forms of FGM where women and girls are empowered and can fully enjoy their human rights. Our mission is to be the driving force of the European movement to end all forms of FGM, joining the forces of communities and civil society organisations, and building synergies and cooperation with all relevant actors in Europe and globally. For more see on our website .

What is FGM?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

The practice is mostly carried out by traditional cutters, who often play other central roles in communities. FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.


The UEFGM (United to END FGM) European Knowledge Platform for Professionals Dealing with Female Genital Mutilation officially launched in Malta on the 3rd of February 2017. The UEFGM e-learning tool aims to raise awareness of and improve knowledge about FGM amongst health professionals and asylum officers working in Europe, including midwives, gynecologists, pediatricians, nurses, health visitors, medical and nursing students, judges, asylum case and reviewing authority officers, asylum support-centre staff, police, child protection officers, social workers and related NGOs.

For more information visit

The Case

A Somali woman from canton Neuchâtel has been sentenced to eight months’ prison over the genital mutilation of her two daughters, in the first Swiss case of its kind after a law change. The law in Switzerland as it relates to FGM outlines that: “Offences committed abroad are also liable to punishment; The penal provision set down in Article 124 of the Criminal Code is intended to prevent girls from being taken to their home countries, or to some other country, in order for genital cutting to be carried out. FGM/C is therefore a punishable offence in Switzerland even if it is, or was, carried out abroad. Whether or not the country in question has prohibited FGM/C is irrelevant. It is not necessary for the accused to have legal domicile in Switzerland in order to be subject to criminal prosecution.

Further information:

For further information please contact the End FGM European Network Communications Officer Lisa O’ Leary on