[International] Questions and Answers about Female Genital Mutilation

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05 Feb 2020
European Commission Press release

In a new press release, the EU highlighted their role in international efforts to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) via their support for a number of projects worldwide, and by including the elimination of FGM in their human rights and political dialogues with partner countries and organizations.

Important Facts about Female genital mutilation (FGM):

  • FGM consists of the removal of the external female genitalia, with possible other injuries to the genitalia.
  • FGM can take several forms including partial or complete removal of the clitoris, of the labia minor and major, narrowing of the vaginal opening, leaving only a small opening for urine and menstrual fluids, and any other non-medical injury such as scraping, incising, pricking or burning.
  • FGM causes pain, infections, problematic intercourse, troubles in giving birth, disturbs urination, and can lead to death.
  • An estimated 200 million women around the world have undergone FGM.
  • It’s predicted that around 68 million females will undergo FGM between 2015 and 2030 in 25 countries.

The role of the EU

The EU is taking various actions to fight FGM, including advocating social changes and protecting and supporting the victims, and is focused on the elimination of harmful practices against women and supporting the Gender Action Plans. These actions take the form of six major steps:


Though there are estimates about the number of FGM victims worldwide, there is no official, reliable data on the actual numbers, or how and by whom this practice is done. Therefore, having accurate information is a top priority. Research has already been conducted on the prevalence of FGM within the European Union by many entities, including the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) and the Commission's Daphne III program.


Social changes need to be implanted to prevent FGM as it’s often part of the community’s culture, along with the belief that it will be beneficial for the girl or will preserve her honour. The EU focuses on health education, children's rights and the development of laws prohibiting FGM to stop these social norms. This includes a web-based platform that was launched in February 2017, to train health and law professionals who are in contact with girls at risk and women who have undergone FGM.  The prevention of FGM was one of the main proposed principles at the 9th European Forum on the rights of the child.


FGM is a crime in all EU Member States, with the possibility in many countries to prosecute for conducting FGM abroad. Ensuring that FGM victims can access specialized support, counselling, and emergency shelters is the goal of the Victims' Rights Directive.


The EU makes sure that any female at risk of being mutilated is eligible for international protection, and that the necessary medical and psychological support will be received upon arriving to EU territory. They also ensure training for professionals working with victims of FGM.

External actions

The EU is taking external action as recognized both under the EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy and the Gender Action Plan II to end FGM. One way to fight this harmful practice is through discussion with partner countries and regional organization. Additionally, the EU finances many worldwide projects against FGM, takes part in the Donor Working Group on FGM, and contributes to the UNICEF-UNFPA Joint Programs supporting countries like Sudan, Mali and Somalia to abandon FGM through legislation. The joint ‘Abandonment of FGM and Empowerment of Families' program is also one of the projects that the EU currently focuses on.

The protection of Women against harmful acts of any kind is a priority in the EU's equality policy. A strategy on Gender Equality will be launched this March for the week of International Women's Day, and will address many topics, including FGM. The Commission will continue to utilize projects and instruments to fight this harmful practice.


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