Estimation of girls at risk of female genital mutilation in the European Union

The main objective of this study was to give an estimation of the number of girls living in three EU Member States who were at risk of being mutilated. A methodology to estimate FGM risk in the EU was developed and pilot-tested in Ireland, Portugal and Sweden. More specifically, this study strove to: analyse and assess the methodological options for FGM risk estimation described and applied in the existing literature and studies; and propose methodologies which can be used to estimate the number of girls at risk of female genital mutilation in the EU Member States. It aims to build upon and further develop research efforts to estimate the risk of FGM in the EU. Greater accuracy with respect to estimating FGM risk is important for informing appropriate policy measures for targeted prevention in the EU.

Main findings

  • Estimating the number of girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation in EU Member States is very complex owing to the intimate nature of the phenomenon, and also due to the unavailability of data that allows for measuring it.
  • In 2011, in Ireland 1 to 11 % of the 14,577 girls originating from FGM risk countries were likely to be at risk of FGM. In Portugal 5 to 23 % of 5,835 girls originating from FGM risk countries were likely to be at risk of FGM. In Sweden 3 to 19 % of 59,409 girls originating from FGM risk countries were likely to be at risk of FGM.
  • More qualitative research is needed to gather insights about the influence of migration and acculturation on attitudes and behaviours towards female genital mutilation.
  • Awareness-raising initiatives and the legal framework forbidding female genital mutilation seem to effectively prevent the continuation of the practice in EU Member States. They need to be maintained in order to influence migrants’ attitudes and behaviours towards female genital mutilation.
  • Specialised services need to be established or continued in order to professionally address the needs of girls at risk of undergoing or having undergone FGM. Risk assessment procedures are crucial for detecting individual cases where risk exists.
  • Sufficient resources (human and financial) need to be foreseen when designing policies and funding programmes so that prevention actions can be continued, specialised services can be set up and/or maintained, professionals can be trained, and research on female genital mutilation can be undertaken.
  • Considering the uncertainties and challenges that FGM risk estimations are confronted with, the research results need to be interpreted and communicated with much caution in order to avoid the misuse of data and information, as well as the stigmatisation of migrant communities.

Gaps in data collection

  • Considering that FGM prevalence varies significantly between regions in the countries where it is commonly practised, data on the region of origin of the female migrant population (residents, asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants) collected in an EU Member State could exponentially enhance the accuracy of FGM risk estimations.
  • FGM risk needs to be estimated regularly so that trends can be assessed. Countries that have a population register can carry out FGM risk (and prevalence) estimations more frequently than those that only have census data. Despite the disadvantages of using census data, this is as yet the only source of information that ensures comparability of data across EU Member States.

Databases

Good practices combating FGM

Methods and tools combating FGM

Literature and legislation on FGM

Bibliographic records on FGM