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FGM around the World

FGM around the World

It is estimated that around 125 million women and girls have been affected by FGM worldwide. (UNICEF, 2013)

FGM is practiced in more than 29 countries in Africa, parts of the Middle East, South East Asia, Europe, America and other countries where migrants from FGM-affected communities live.
30 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM in the next decade according to the UNICEF report.

FGM affected countries in Africa

In Europe, 500,000 women and girls have undergone FGM and 180,000 girls are at risk of FGM
Gender-based violence is a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination. It is defined as violence directed against a person on the basis of gender. Gender-based violence reflects and reinforces inequalities between men and women and results in physical, mental and sexual harm. It includes, among others: domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, sexual violence during conflict, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, forced prostitution, forced sterilization, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection.

In the European Pact for Gender Equality (2011−2020) the Council of the European Union reaffirms its commitment to fulfil EU ambitions regarding gender equality as mentioned in the Treaty. In particular, it emphasizes the need to combat all forms of violence against women in order to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by women and girls and, as a consequence, to enhance gender equality with a view to creating inclusive growth and development in labour markets in Europe.

FGM in the UK

FGM is practiced in the UK on girls from FGM affected communities.
In 2013 it was estimated that over 60,000 girls and young women could be at risk of FGM in England and Wales. Although the exact numbers of women and girls who have undergone FGM is not known, recent research indicates that 137,000 women living in England and Wales have undergone FGM. The lack of data collected makes it difficult for professionals to know the true extent of the problem of FGM.

FGM and the Law in the UK

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it illegal to help, support or arrange for FGM to be performed on a girl in the UK. It also forbids taking a girl outside the UK to have FGM. Practising FGM is a criminal offence in the UK. The offence can result in 14 years in prison or a fine – or both.
Local Authorities may intervene in a family if they believe that any child is at risk of, or has already undergone FGM. Local Authorities can also prevent a girl from being taken abroad for FGM if they consider the child to be at risk.

What if I am worried that someone is at risk of FGM?
If you are worried that you, your friend, or your sister is at risk of FGM in the UK or of being taken abroad for FGM, it is very important that you do something to stop FGM from taking place. Remember, FGM is against the law and is harmful to girls. Sometimes the warning signs may only be rumours, but it may be worth telling someone to be on the safe side. You will only be seen to be helping in the long run. Take immediate action: You can get help and advice. Do not stay silent.

There are several charities and organisations in the UK who are working to end FGM. This means that there is a lot of support available for girls and women who are at risk of or affected by FGM. If you need emotional support, medical treatment or even someone to talk to about FGM you can contact:

FORWARD: 0208 960 4000 –
NSPCC: 0800 028 3550 –

There are resources and materials to provide support for someone worried about FGM taking place including – FGM Health Passports which clearly explain FGM is illegal in the UK and may convince people not to practice FGM. This resource was modelled of the Dutch FGM Health Passport.

In addition there are new FGM Protection Orders which means that courts can put an order to make sure that a girl does not undergo FGM – this is also something that young women can ask the courts to have as a way of protecting them.

FGM in the Netherlands

FGM and the law in the Netherlands

All forms of FGM are prohibited in the Netherlands since 1993. Female Genital Mutilation is a form of child abuse. In the Dutch Penal Code FGM falls under intentional assault offenses or under the unauthorized practice of medicine. Since 2001 it is possible for minor girls to apply asylum based on serious threats of FGM in their home country. An adjustment of the law in 2006 made FGM performed abroad punishable too, if the suspected person has a Dutch nationality or lives in the Netherlands. In July 2009 the period of limitation is prolonged. The period of limitation takes effect with the 18th birthday and amounts to 20 years with all forms of FGM.

The Dutch government has played a huge role in the fight against FGM, not only by making it punishable and tackling the legal boundaries, but by funding FGM projects carried out by FSAN and the chain partners. The ministry of Health, Welfare & Sports named national FGM Ambassadors in 2009 to gain more attention to this issue.

Dutch Health Passport

In 2011, a “Statement opposing female genital circumcision”, or Dutch Health Passport was developed. This passport states that FGM is punishable in the Netherlands, and it was developed to support families, who do not want to circumcise their daughters to resist social pressure from their family (for example during holiday in their home countries). The Dutch Health Passport was signed by the ministry of Health, Welfare & Sports, the ministry of Security and Justice and several other institutions and organizations.

FGM in Portugal

FGM and the law in Portugal

FGM is criminalized by the Portuguese law since 2007, through the article 144 of the criminal code: offense to physical integrity. This year, thanks to the Istanbul Convection a new law was proposed in the Parliament and until the end of the year the crime of Female Genital Mutilation is going to be specific in the law, and all the 4 types described.

Portugal developed its ‘First Programme of Action for the Elimination of FGM’ in 2009, integrated in the ‘Third
National Plan for Equality – Citizenship and Gender (2007 −2010)’. The ‘Second Programme of Action for the Elimination of FGM’ runs from 2011 to 2013, and both have been issued by the Council of Ministers. The National Action Plan is now on the its third edition now (2014-2016) and its working group have now more NGO’s and public institutions such as: education Ministry, Health Ministry, Justice Ministry, Child Protection Services, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Sexual and Reproductive Health organization, women rights organization, community based organization, etc.

Portugal is the only country in the EU that has developed a second and third action plan dealing exclusively with FGM.

No prevalence studies on FGM have been undertaken yet in Portugal (as of February 2012). According to a report of December 2010 of the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) – 445,262 foreigners live in Portugal. The most significant group, among those originating from countries where FGM is performed, comes from Guinea-Bissau (19,817). A survey, among 52 health professionals in three regions around the Portuguese capital city (Lisbon, Amadora and Almada), mentioned that 13.5% of the professionals stated that FGM is performed in the territory and nearly 27% had seen patients with FGM. One of the measures proposed in the Second Programme of Action for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation is the development of indicators for monitoring the number of girls and women with FGM and launching a prevalence study on FGM in Portugal. This study begun in March 2014, after the launch of the 3rd National Action Plan and hopefully will give results until the end of the year.