Female Genital Mutilation, not Europe’s problem. Or is it?

Somali women of London at art exhibit to STOP FGM
Two Somali women look at depictions of FGM during an 2010 London STOP FGM art event sponsored by FORWARD, a London-based NGO dedicated to "Safegaurding the rights and dignity" of Somali women and girls. Image: Rufai Ajala

Leye agrees: “Legislation is only a part of the solution. Yes, we need legislation but we also need to make sure the system acts upon these laws.” To date, France is the only EU country that has prosecuted people for committing FGM. To date, it has had 30 court cases related to FGM.

Thirty court cases and more than 500,000 women at risk; a dismal track record.

One of the most important reasons for the limited number of court cases can be found in the difficulty of finding adequate proof to bring a FGM case to court. “Add to that the limited knowledge of FGM – amongst police, health personal and other authorities, as well as the personal attitudes of these professionals toward migrant populations or FGM and you can see how many unseen barriers there are in addressing this problem,” says Leye.

“We often hear the argument that FGM is part of certain cultures and traditions and that we as westerners shouldn’t meddle in the customs of other cultures. This is a complex debate, with many grey areas, but when it comes to FGM I base my view that it is unacceptable on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” says Leye.

While the battle against FGM, also in Europe, is far from won, things are moving. Various EU institutions have committed to contributing in various ways to mapping the prevalence of FGM throughout Europe, to help raise awareness and educate key authorities on dealing with FGM in their communities

“We’re beginning to see a coordinated approach that tackles the problem on an European level. Now FGM is on the European agenda, that a major step forward,” concludes Leye.

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Victims of Female Genital Mutilation / Cutting (FGM/C), and activists, share their insights and personal stories from Africa and Europe. Together they make a compelling case for the abandonment of FGM/C. This UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre documentary is in support of the Innocenti report, “The Dynamics of Social Change. Towards the abandonment of Female Gential Mutilation/Cutting in five African countries”.
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For more information on London’s Metropolitan Police Service – Child Abuse Investigation Command work to stop FGM link to these two videos: Project Azure – Stop FGM Now – Part 1 and Project Azure – Stop FGM Now – Part 2

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For more information on this topic:

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Gender communications expert and WNN Brussels based journalist Sabine Clappaert has published her work also in De Morgen and Flanders Today (Belgium), Pink Ribbon magazine, The Bulletin, IPS News (UK/International) and Destiny Magazine (South Africa). Clappaert is dedicated to covering human rights issues and development as they intersect with women inside and outside Europe.

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Additional material for this story has been provided by UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, FORWARD – Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development, London Metropolitan Police, Amnesty International Ireland, Waris Dirie and the Desert Flower Foundation and The Waris Dire Foundation.

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