On the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation commissioners Federica Mogherini, Johannes Hahn, Neven Mimica, and Vĕra Jourová joined together to reaffirm the EU’s commitment to eradicating female genital mutilation.
“The European Union will continue to work with all those determined to abolish female genital mutilation: parents, activists of all ages, including young girls, doctors, teachers, healthcare professionals, child and human rights advocates, judicial authorities, political, community and religious leaders, as well as governments,” the Commission said in a statement Monday.
Together with the United Nations, the Commission has launched the Spotlight Initiative. The initiative focuses on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls but is now working to fight female genital mutilation in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the practice is still prevalent.
The EU has also established laws against female genital mutilation. The practice has been criminalised in all EU member states and suspects will also be prosecuted for bringing a girl from outside the EU to be mutilated. The Commission works to train professionals, such as judges, asylum officers and doctors who are in contact with the girls at risk.
Despite the efforts of the EU, nearly 200 million girls still suffer from female genital mutilation/cutting every year.
“We want a society where women are free from violence and free to change the world,” the Commission said.
Female genital mutilation is the partial or complete removal of the external genital organs for non-medical purposes, according to the World Health Organization. It is a specific form of violence against women and girls.
The procedures, which can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths, are thought to ensure premarital virginity and prepare a girl for adulthood and marriage.
The practice is mostly carried out on girls between infancy and age 15.
“Female genital mutilation is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women,” the World Health Organization said.
MEPs voted to approve a resolution to end female genital mutilation on Wednesday in Strasbourg. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals call for an end to the practice by 2030.