“I curse the practice of FGM and I don’t want any daughter of mine to go through this process that almost claimed my life,” says Margaret Chepoteltel who was 13 when she underwent Female Genital Mutilation. She was looking forward to it back then. Little did she know that the procedure could cause lifelong health problems. When giving birth to her first child, Margaret faced complications, “I was lucky because somehow I stayed alive, but I eventually lost my baby.”
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a violation of the human rights, health and integrity of girls and women. It is a universal problem, even if primarily concentrated in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East. It is also practiced in some countries in Asia and Latin America and continues to persist amongst immigrant populations living in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. It is estimated that at least 600,000 women in Europe(link is external) have undergone female genital mutilation and 200 million women worldwide.
If the practice continues at the current pace, 68 million girls will be mutilated between 2015 and 2030(link is external) in 25 countries where FGM is routinely practiced and data is available. To promote the elimination of female genital mutilation, coordinated and systematic work is needed, and it must engage whole communities and focus on human rights, gender equality, sexual education and attention to the needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.
“FGM is a crime and a violation of women’s human rights. We must stop it” HR/VP @JosepBorrellF Joint statement with @VeraJourova @dubravkasuica @helenadalli @JuttaUrpilainen ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation europa.eu/!VqprpH
The EU actively participates in international efforts to promote the elimination of female genital mutilation via discussions during human rights and political dialogues with partner countries and regional organisations, as well as civil society and human rights organisations. To support the political and advocacy mobilization, the EU finances a number of projects worldwide contributing to the elimination of this harmful practice.
The EU tackles female genital mutilation in various ways in its internal and external action. This includes raising awareness, advocating for better legal protection and improved access to support for victims, instilling social change and capacity building of practitioners and dialogue with survivors and community-based activists. The actions are based on:
- the focus areas set out in the Communication towards the elimination of FGM from 25 November 2013;
- fighting harmful practices and violence of any kind against women and girls;
- the Gender Action Plan III for 2021-2025.
Ending FGM is set as a priority action for EU external action in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for 2020-2024.
The Council of Europe Istanbul Convention(link is external) defines female genital mutilation and requests its criminalisation. Its victims have to be protected in accordance with the Convention’s support and protection measures in those Member States that have ratified the Convention.
Through the Spotlight Initiative(link is external) the EU, the UN and other partners are working together to stop the global injustice of violence against women and girls. The EU will continue supporting survivors, affected families and communities, and working with experts, policy makers and NGOs to achieve this goal where both men and women have a role to play.
It wasn’t until Ms. Chepoteltel was approached by the Communication for Development Foundation Uganda to attend a meeting on FGM that she realized many of her health issues, including birth complications, were linked to cutting. Now a mother to two daughters, she says she will never let the same thing happen to them.
Margaret Chepoteltel of Amudat District is an FGM survivor who advocates for the end of the practice in Uganda. Photo: John Bosco Mukura/CDFU
“I will continue sensitizing [communities to FGM] and testifying against female genital mutilation, even to men, because I know the dangers […] If I keep quiet, our daughters will go through a lot of pain and suffering… We will continue to tell mothers, fathers and the girls themselves about the dangers of FGM, and to discourage cutting. We will not give up.”