Joint Statement ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

Joint Statement ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

Ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, 6 February 2021, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Josep Borrell Fontelles, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Demography and Democracy, Dubravka Šuica, Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, and Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, joined together to reaffirm the EU’s strong commitment to eradicate female genital mutilation worldwide and made the following statement:

“No woman or girl should suffer from violence. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a severe violation of human rights and an act of violence against women and girls. It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls worldwide have suffered from FGM. In Europe, at least 600,000 women and girls are living with the consequences of FGM, often severely affecting their health and well-being, even endangering their lives. COVID-19 has disrupted prevention programmes, seriously undermining progress towards reducing this heinous practice. Any backward step puts thousands of women and girls at risk.

FGM cannot be justified as a cultural or traditional practice – it is a crime and a violation of human rights. Many people and communities are abandoning FGM. Change is possible, and it is happening.

Prevention of gender-based violence and the protection of survivors is at the heart of the Union’s equality policy.

In line with the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024, the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and the Gender Action Plan III, we are committed to stepping up our actions to end FGM in Europe and globally. For this, we support and work together with survivors, affected families and communities, experts and policymakers to end FGM. This year, we will present a legal proposal to prevent and combat specific forms of gender-based violence and a specific Recommendation on the prevention of harmful practices. The upcoming EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child will make further concrete recommendation to effectively prevent and put an end to FGM, both inside and outside the EU. Both women and men play a crucial role in abandoning FGM. Nothing can justify this violence against women and girls, and no one should stay silent.

We remain more committed than ever to our work to end all forms of violence against women. It cannot wait. We owe this to every single woman and girl at risk.”


Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, as defined by the World Health Organization. FGM is a worldwide issue, which exists in Europe too.  It is estimated that 180,000 girls in 13 European countries alone are at risk of being mutilated while 600,000 women are living with the consequences of FGM in Europe. FGM is carried out erroneously for a variety of cultural religious or social reasons on young girls between infancy and the age of 15. FGM constitutes a form of child abuse and violence against women and girls; it has severe short- and long-term physical and psychological consequences.

Criminalisation of FGM is required under the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention is signed by all EU Member States and has been ratified by 21 Member States so far. The Commission has been working together with the Council towards EU accession to the Convention. If the the Istanbul Convention remains blocked in Council, the Commission will put forward a new proposal to prevent and combat gender-based violence in 2021. The Commission will also propose to extend the list of euro-crimes to include all forms of hate crime and hate speech.

The 1989 UN Convention on the rights of the child, to which all EU Member States are party, also condemns FGM as a form of violence against girls.

The European Union remains committed to the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which addresses FGM through its Goal number 5 on Gender Equality and specific target 5.3 on the elimination of harmful practices.

In the context of external action and development cooperation, ending FGM continues to be a key action under the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 and the Gender Action Plan 2021-2025. This is reflected in concrete actions, for example, through the support to the UNFPA/UNICEF Global Joint Programme on the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation through the Spotlight Africa Regional Initiative, which dedicated €10 million to tackling the practice in 18 partner countries.

The Commission is planning to present a legislative proposal to prevent and combat specific forms of gender-based violence. The Commission will also propose a specific Recommendation on the prevention of harmful practices. In addition, the EU continues to provide funding through the Daphne strand of the EU programmes for projects aimed at combating gender-based violence, including FGM. The upcoming EU strategy on the rights of the child will cover both the internal and the external action. It will include actions to prevent and respond to violence against children, both in EU internal and external actions.

The new Pact on migration and asylum put forward by the Commission in September 2020 also aims to reinforce the protection safeguards available to persons with special needs, and ensures eligibility for international protection for women and girls with a fear of persecution or facing the risk of suffering FGM.

Source: Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (

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