More than 200 million girls and women alive today have suffered female genital mutilation. Discover where it is practised, the reasons for it and its impact.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to procedures involving the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genitals for non-medical reasons. Usually it is done by a traditional circumciser using a blade and without anaesthetic. Although internationally recognised as a human rights violation, about 68 million girls worldwide are at risk of it by 2030.
In which countries is female circumcision practiced?
FGM is primarily practised in about 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East. It is also practiced in some countries in Asia and Latin America and among communities coming from these regions.
Although it is illegal in the EU and some member states prosecute even when it performed outside the country, it is estimated that about 600,000 women living in Europe have been subjected to FGM and a further 180,000 girls are at a high risk in 13 European countries alone.
What are the reasons for female genital mutilation?
FGM is mostly carried out on girls between infancy and 15. It goes back to a mix of cultural and social reasons, such as social pressure and convention, beliefs that FGM has religious support or ideas of beauty and purity. The practice predates the rise of Christianity and Islam and reflects deep-rooted inequalities between the sexes.
- severe pain and excessive bleeding
- difficulty when passing urine
- cysts, infections and infertility
- psychological problems
- diminished sexual pleasure
- complications in childbirth
- higher risk of new-born deaths
The European Parliament’s commitment to end female genital mutilation
The European Parliament has repeatedly demonstrated a strong commitment to help eliminate the practice of FGM worldwide. By adopting laws and resolutions, MEPs have advocated common action to eradicate female genital mutilation.
On Wednesday, 12 February, members adopted a new resolution calling on the European Commission to include actions to end FGM in the new EU Gender Equality Strategy, to be presented in March, and to provide care for survivors.
They also urged EU countries to ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and reiterated calls to incorporate FGM prevention measures in all policy areas, especially in health, asylum, education and employment. MEPs also expressed their concerns about the increasingly widespread phenomenon of “medicalisation” of FGM.
An app to tackle FGM
In 2019, the Restorers, a group of five students from Kenya who developed an app helping girls deal with female genital mutilation, were shortlisted for the Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Their nomination marks an important step in the fight against FGM, empowering young people to play a role in their own communities.