World must end FGM and all forms of gender-based violence

06/02/2020 - With up to 600,000 women and girls in Europe living with the trauma of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the EU must urgently step-up efforts to end gender-based violence around the world.

PES Women members with End FGM

PES Women Executive board members with End FGM Director Fiona Coyle (pictured fourth from the right).

The PES Women Executive gathered today - International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (6 Feb) - to reiterate that FGM is a violation of human rights, which - like women’s issues in general - has been systematically overlooked by policymakers.

Europe must work to ensure a world where the rights of girls and women are valued and respected by all, and where everyone is able to fulfil their potential and contribute to a fairer and more just society.

PES Women met with European Network End FGM to support their work and learn more about the misconceptions and challenges around FGM. Together with the WHO, End FGM has today launched an interactive economic cost calculator to visualise the health and economic costs of FGM and the potential cost savings of investments aimed at preventing FGM. The research quantifies the investments needed to reduce the health and social burden of FGM, which is an important step in building an investment case for preventing the practice.

PES Women has consistently called on all EU institutions, member states and decision makers to step up their ambitions when it comes to tackling gender-based violence, including FGM. This has included advocating for the introduction of a binding EU Gender Equality Strategy, which the European Commission has now committed to, and for the EU-wide ratification of the Istanbul Convention. FGM must be considered when drafting and implementing new EU instruments to combat the continuum of violence against women.

At least 200 million women and girls worldwide – on all continents - have been affected by FGM. In Europe, up to 600,000 women and girls live with the physical and psychological consequences of FGM, and a further 180,000 could be in danger of being cut, according to estimates by End FGM. If current population trends continue, the number of girls being cut every year will increase from 3.9 million to 4.6 million by 2030.

This situation means Europe and the rest of the world is seriously off track when it comes to meeting the UN target under the Sustainable Development Goals to eliminate FGM worldwide by 2030. In Europe, there is also currently no EU-wide standard for support of FGM survivors, who are not able to access high-quality care and support in every member state.

PES Women President Zita Gurmai said:

“FGM is a cruel practice which is tantamount to torture. It is done expressly to exert power over girls and young women, causing physical and psychological damage which lasts a lifetime. The world must come together to stop it.

“The political will exists to do this, yet the number of women affected by FGM appears to be rising. As End FGM has highlighted, without investment and prioritisation of this issue, the world is in danger of missing the UN target. It is time to make invisible violence against girls visible.

“We must think about the next 10 years as a decade of action against gender-based violence. PES Women supports calls to massively scale-up efforts to drive down all forms of violence against women, including FGM. At European level, there must finally be EU-wide ratification of the Istanbul Convention and a binding Gender Equality Strategy, which commits member states to step up their game for women’s human rights.”

At today’s meeting - the first of 2020 with its Executive board members - PES Women set out its programme and actions for the coming months. 2020 will be a crucial year for women’s rights and gender equality. It is the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, whose targets still have not been met today. In 2020, PES Women will continue to push the EU and all actors to accelerate the realisation of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Notes to editors

  • About FGM: Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women.
  • About the target to eliminate FGM: A target of eliminating FGM within a generation was set in 2008 in an interagency statement signed by the OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WHO. In 2019 the UN set a target of eliminating FGM by 2030.
  • About End FGM: The End FGM European Network (End FGM EU) is a European umbrella network of 24 organisations working to ensure sustainable European action to end female genital mutilation. For more information visit: https://www.endfgm.eu/.