15th Dec 2019

Female genital mutilation not on EU agenda

  • Monday 6 February is the International day of Zero Tolerance for female genital mutilation (Photo: United Nations Photo)

The Danish EU rotating presidency has made a "safe Europe" one of its top priorities. But female genital cutting, which affects an estimated 500,000 women a year in Europe alone, is not on its agenda.

Girls, some even just days old, are sent abroad on family holidays to destinations in Africa, India, Indonesia and Kurdistan to have their labia removed and - in some cases - even stitched up.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Preben Aamann, the Danish EU presidency spokesperson told this website that Copenhagen has no plans to discuss the problem in Europe, adding instead that "Denmark supports initiatives against FGM [female genital mutilation] around the world" citing two UN bodies active on the subject.

Last April, the Council of Europe (COE), a 47-member intergovernmental organisation in Strasbourg, adopted a convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The convention, launched in Istanbul, specifically addresses forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking, physical and psychological violence and sexual violence. It would legally bind countries to prevent violence, protect victims and end the impunity of perpetrators. Eighteen countries have signed the convention but not one has ratified it.

Denmark, along with several other EU member states, have yet to sign the Council of Europe’s convention. However, Denmark says it strongly supports the convention and even helped negotiate it.

"We have been informed by several countries that they have started the process of ratification but that it takes around or more than a year to complete. For this reason, it is not surprising that we have not received any ratifications," said an official at the Strasbourg council. The contact noted that Turkey would probably be the first country to ratify the convention.

Genital mutilation, often condoned by family members and encouraged by traditional notions of beauty and hygiene, leaves scars on girls both physically and psychologically. To save the mother and the unborn child, doctors in the EU sometimes have to perform costly Caesarean sections on women whose labia have been sewn shut.

For its part, the European Commission adopted a strategy in 2010 on violence against women and promised to "adopt an EU wide strategy on combating violence against women, including practices of female genital mutilation."

The executive called upon civil society to contribute ideas to tackle the human rights violation. But Amnesty International says the European commission has stalled on its EU-wide strategy and has yet to provide any clear-cut vision on the matter.

"There has been absolutely no progress made beyond the commitments made by the EU institutions over a year ago. Human rights is just not a high priority on the European Commission's agenda because of the financial crisis; even less than migrant women issues," Christine Loudes, Director of the END FGM European Campaign, led by Amnesty, told this website.

Meanwhile, the commission said it is taking the issue seriously and has asked its European Institute for Gender Equality in Vilnius to produce a report on the practice in the EU this year.

To date, only Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Sweden and the UK have any specific legal provision in their national laws against it. But laws alone are not proving effective. The procedure has been criminalised in France, Sweden and the UK for the past decade but still remains prevalent among some diasporas.

The NGO says preventive measures, such as education and raising awareness, are urgently required.

"The EU really needs to take some action internally. We can't put pressure on developing countries to curb FGM while Europe drags its feet on adoptin a strategy to protect women and girls living in Europe," added Loudes.

This story was amended at 7.30pm Brussels time on 6 February to clarify a quote by Loudes

UN, EU raise awareness against female cutting

Two of the EU's most senior officials, both of them women, have promised to help eradicate the modern-day horror that will traumatise another 3 million girls in Africa this year - female genital mutilation.

MEPs mark Violence Against Women day with urgent call

According to liberal MEP Anna Júlia Donáth, "violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations existing today and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, and shame surrounding it."


Malmo, a segregated city - separating fact from fiction

Despite the neighbourhood's beautiful name, the reputation of Rosengård (Rose Garden) does not so much evoke images of roses as headlines of crime and social challenges. This area of Malmö has been struggling with its notorious, mythical, image for years.

NGO reveals German firms fail to meet UN human rights rule

A new report reveals that the biggest companies in Germany fail to manage measures to protect their employees and supply-chain from human rights abuses - ahead of the government deadline for introducing tough new regulation.

News in Brief

  1. EU Scream podcast wins media award
  2. Sturgeon will set out Scottish independence plan next week
  3. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  4. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  5. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  6. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  7. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  8. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality


FIFA's schools programme aims to reach 700m children

Football clubs today invest huge sums of money in youth development and court talented young players from an early age. Children are the future – not only where football is concerned, but also for society in general.


A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU values face scrutiny This WEEK
  2. EU sighs relief after 'decisive' Johnson victory in UK
  3. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  4. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  5. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  6. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  7. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  8. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us