Overview of legislation in the European Union to address female genital mutilation: challenges and recommendations for the implementation of laws


conference Expert Group Meeting on good practices in legislation to address harmful practices against women
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 2009-05-25 - 2009-05-28


Female genital mutilation exists in the EU. Due to migration from practicing communities to Europe, FGM has travelled with them. Although no national reliable data on the number of women with genital mutilation or the number of girls at risk are available, FGM has raised concern at EU policy making level, at legislative level, among health care services and affected communities living in Europe.

Anecdotal evidence exists of the prevalence in some European countries, as can be retrieved from literature. In France, estimations vary from 4,500 to 7,000 girls at risk, and from 13,000 to 30,000 women with FGM1 2. Approximately 21,000 women with FGM live in Germany and an estimated 5,500 girls might be at risk3. Data from the Ministry of Interior of 1994, estimates that 28,000 women with FGM live in Italy, while there are at least 4,000 to 5,000 girls with FGM in the country4. Jäger et al, estimate that there were approximately 6,700 girls at risk of FGM and women who have undergone the procedure in Switzerland5. A recently published statistical study from FORWARD UK suggested that in 2001, 66.000 women with FGM and 20.000 girls at risk (under the age of 15), live in England and Wales6. In some European countries such as France and Belgium, studies are currently carried out to estimate the magnitude of the problem in those countries.

This paper presents an overview of criminal laws, child protection laws and professional secrecy provisions in the 27 member states of the European Union, the implementation of these laws in some EU countries and good practices and lessons learned regarding implementation of laws. The paper concludes with some recommendations.

Authors & affiliation: 
Els Leye and Alexia Sabbe∗ International Centre for Reproductive Health Ghent University, Belgium
Staff Members: 
Published In: 
Expert Group Meeting on good practices in legislation to address harmful practices against women Conference Proceedings
Publication date: 
Thursday, May 28, 2009