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Home >> News >> Europe >> 6 February: International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital (...)

6 February: International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

February 6th 2018

According to the United Nations, globally, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In line with equality between women and men being one of the European Union’s founding values, the EU has identified combating against violence against women and girls, including ending Female Genital Mutilation, as one of its priorities in the Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015 & Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019. Equinet, as a key partner of the European Commission, has a special role in promoting a uniform application of EU law in the field of non-discrimination and equal treatment of women and men, and many of its member national equality bodies have a mandate to work on gender equality at national level.

The European Union and all Member States, as signatories of the most comprehensive international treaty on combatting violence against women and domestic violence, the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention, recognize violence against women as a human rights violation and are obliged to address violence against women through measures aimed at preventing violence, protecting victims, and prosecuting the perpetrators. Article 38 – Female Genital Mutilation – of the Convention particularly emphasizes that “Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the following intentional conducts are criminalised:

  • excising, infibulating or performing any other mutilation to the whole or any part of a woman’s labia majora, labia minora or clitoris;
  • coercing or procuring a woman to undergo any of the acts listed in point a;
  • inciting, coercing or procuring a girl to undergo any of the acts listed in point a.”

Owing to the EU’s international human rights commitments as party to the Convention, the European Commission designated 2017 as a year dedicated to combatting violence against women. Many equality bodies, at the forefront of this work, carry out projects aimed at developing and implementing practical and targeted information to combat violence against women, as well as awareness-raising and education activities. Specific examples included a regional workshop for equality bodies on eliminating violence against women hosted by the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia, in cooperation with Equinet and the European Commission in Tbilisi, Georgia, and a national online survey by the Belgian Institute for Equality of Women and Men on the impact of domestic violence on work, workers and in workplace.

At European level, Equinet works with EU institutions to strengthen equality and anti-discrimination legislative and policy frameworks, which are crucial in relation to combating violence against women and promoting gender equality. As highlighted by recently published preliminary findings from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) upcoming study, “Strong laws and prosecution are powerful deterrent factors when it comes to female genital mutilation (FGM) in the EU.” Currently, Equinet is in the middle of a two-year project to combat Violence against Women (Vaw) and Gender Based Violence, aiming to utilize the valuable experience of its membership in working against VaW and gender based violence, as well as to address challenges and opportunities inherent in combatting an equality and human rights mandate on the issue, among further objectives.

Within the framework of the project, the Working Group on Gender Equality, and as part of the European Coalition to End Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG), Equinet as a network of equality bodies, continues to fight against violence against women and for gender equality at national and European level. Further information about our upcoming plans and activities, including our work on gender equality can be found in the 2018 Equinet Work Plan.