Female genital mutilation in the European Union

The main objective of the report was to provide an analysis of the situation of Female Genital Mutilation in EU Member States, particularly concerning prevalence data, policy and legal framework, and actors dealing with FGM and their approaches. Some Member States see an increase in this form of gender-based violence due to migration of people from countries where FGM is practiced. This EIGE study summarised the gaps in data collection on FGM across Europe and collected methods, tools and good practices to support the development of strategies to combat FGM in the EU.

Main findings

  • The report presents the legal and policy framework of the UN, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, and the European Commission concerning FGM. 
  • Across EU Member States there has been a trend to recognise FGM as a criminal act. In all EU member States legal provisions dealing with bodily injury, mutilation, and removal of organs or body tissue are applicable to the practice of FGM and may be used for criminal prosecution. In some countries a specific criminal law has been introduced to address FGM.
  • In the study, a total of 592 manuals, toolkits, protocols, and awareness-raising campaigns were documented across Member States.  The methods and tools dealing with FGM that are most common in the EU-28 are related to prevention. Methods and tools aiming at prosecution and protection are available to a lesser extent. 
  • Across the EU Member States, the total number of identified actors who were working or had at some point taken action in their country on FGM was 507 at the time of data collection, varying from zero to 68 within individual Member States.

Gaps in data collection

  • Lack of systematic data collection is one of the main challenges with regard developing prevalence estimates of FGM. Despite the potential usefulness of various administrative records, these records are not systematically used, existing data are not collated centrally, and access to data is often restricted.
  • Collecting prevalence data on FGM is more complicated than on other gender-based violence data. Namely, there are a number of limitations with regard to the accepted method of using of the ‘extrapolation-of-country of origin-prevalence-data-method’ as well as the limitations of census data and variety of concepts. 
  • Although health professionals deal with women who have undergone FGM, very few Member States’ hospital and medical records contain information on FGM. Health professionals’ lack of knowledge and expertise in relation to FGM, and the reluctance of the affected population to disclose their status, contribute to the lack of health data.       

Study in detail

During recent years, FGM has gained considerable attention in the EU. In June 2012, the European Parliament adopted the Resolution on ending female genital mutilation and in November 2013, the European Commission issued the Communication to the European Parliament and the Council Towards the elimination of female genital mutilation.

Following a call of the European Commission to EIGE, the Institute launched a study on the estimation of the number of women and girls at risk of FGM in selected EU Member States.

Estimating the number of girls living in the EU at risk of being subjected to FGM poses several challenges. The study developed a methodological approach to be used in all EU Member States so that countries can better design policies and support this population. The pilot studies were carried out in Ireland, Portugal and Sweden. These Member States have been selected based on different criteria, such as having a national action plan and a specific law to prosecute FGM, and creating FGM-specific records in different settings like healthcare, child protection, asylum, and immigration and border services. The study was published in June 2015.

In 2012 EIGE launched a “Study to map the current situation and trends of female genital mutilation in the European Union” at the request of EU Commissioner Viviane Reding. The results of the project are the report, collections of resources, methods and tools and good practices and country fact sheets. It will support policy makers in their efforts to follow the law obligation in this area and develop strategies for effective elimination of female genital mutilation in Europe.

EIGE’s research − the first EU-wide study on FGM − shows that to effectively combat FGM, the EU needs a comprehensive strategy, based on a gender-sensitive and human-rights approach, which empowers girls and women to be in control of their lives and which balances the state measures of protection, prevention and prosecution.

Improvement in data collection and intensified efforts on the behavioural change among FGM-practising communities, decision-makers and stakeholders in the countries of origin are equally important.

The report presents among its recommendations a suggestion to implement legal provisions to criminalise FGM. It also points out the need for specialised services for victims of gender-based violence, including counseling and shelters. These services are currently insufficient and unequally distributed in and among the EU Member States. The report also calls for more coordination of FGM-related work among stakeholders at regional, national and international levels.

One of the recommendations is to establish a multi-agency cooperation on the protection of girls and women at risk and victims of FGM, and facilitate the exchange of good practices. A network of experts and key actors on gender-based violence – including FGM – should be established.


Good practices combating FGM

Methods and tools combating FGM

Literature and legislation on FGM

Bibliographic records on FGM

Country fact sheets

Fact sheet for every country
Belgium Greece Lithuania Portugal
Bulgaria Spain Luxembourg Romania
Czech Republic France Hungary Slovenia
Denmark Croatia Malta Slovakia
Germany Italy Netherlands Finland
Estonia Cyprus Austria Sweden
Ireland Latvia Poland United Kingdom