EIGE's Director Carlien Scheele delivered this speech at the release event of EIGE's report Estimation of girls at risk of female genital mutilation in the European Union: Denmark, Spain, Luxembourg and Austria on 26 May 2021.

Welcome all.

Today we launch EIGE’s latest report on the situation of female genital mutilation in the EU.

Though FGM is illegal in all countries of the EU, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

That’s why we analyse what laws and policies countries have in place to stop FGM happening. It is why we calculate how many girls are at risk of FGM in specific EU countries. And it is why we give tailor-made recommendations to each of these countries, to make sure the number of girls facing FGM reaches 0.

But, we would not be able to do any of this without the input of communities affected by FGM. Our methodology is unique, because it doesn’t just count the number of people from FGM-practicing countries in the EU.

It gives space for these people to have their say, to talk about how FGM is seen in their community, and what their experiences have been of the laws and policies to stop FGM.

This is how we can get an accurate picture of how many girls continue to be at risk of FGM in the EU. It is how we know that communities are turning away from the practice, and often lead campaigns to eliminate it.

It is through talking to communities that we are able to assess the effectiveness of all the good work being done to end FGM. Numbers for prosecutions of FGM are low, but this could be because official data collection doesn’t catch all cases. To make sure we are not missing something, we need to hear first-hand whether girls are being cut in secret.

By talking to those affected by FGM, we are also able to hear how well EU countries are supporting women who have already been cut. This is the only way we could find out that, even though most countries have specialised health services for victims of FGM, shame and stigma continue to be a part of visiting the doctor for some women.

And while taking to communities, we heard over and over again that they would like to be part of government discussions on FGM, that they would like to be involved in designing measures to put an end to the practice.

In all four countries of our study, in Denmark, Spain, Luxembourg and Austria, this is not currently happening.

This is why the focus of our event today is on raising the voice of communities.

Our research for this study started as the coronavirus pandemic took hold of Europe. And yet, in all four countries of the study, members of affected communities braved the virus to share their experiences of FGM in-person in our focus groups.

I don’t need to tell you how difficult conversations are around FGM in the best of times, let alone during the stress of a global pandemic.

I tell you this to show how dedicated affected communities are to eradicating FGM. That’s why we have brought together representatives from communities and EU governments today. To talk about how we can use our shared commitment to end FGM.

I hope this shared commitment will energise our discussions today. I also hope it will push us to tackle some of the tough questions around FGM, like:

How does a country communicate anti-FGM laws without alienating communities? How does it prevent girls being taken abroad for FGM, but without stereotyping certain communities? Thank you for joining us today to try and find the answers to such questions together.

Thank you for joining us today to try and find the answers to such questions together.