6 February 2023

At the United Nations world conference on women held in Copenhagen 1980[1], an important step was taken to put female genital mutilation on the international agenda. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW, newly adopted in 1979, encouraged states to be bold. Based on Article 5 in CEDAW [2], states committed themselves to prevent mutilation practices which damage women’s bodies and health.They also entered the broader context to eliminate violence against and sexual exploitation of women into their program. [3]


Some 200 million girls and women alive today are estimated to be genitally mutilated, often as young girls. In 1980 FGM wasn’t understood as a European problem, but due to migration now it is a growing concern. [4] At least 600 000 women in Europe are estimated to have undergone female genital mutilation. Another 190 000 girls and women are at risk.[5]


FGM is a crime in all EU Member States. The Istanbul Convention also mandates ratifying states to criminalize FGM.Victims fall under its prevention, support and protection measures.[6] Let us follow the legacy from 1980 and take bold steps to safeguard women and girls: demand national legislation, prosecute acts including the coercion of girls to be mutilated ”voluntarily”, as well as intentional acts also applicable to mutilation performed by medical professionals which is a growing problem in Europe. Let SIE become part of accelerating the work to end female genital mutilation in Europe.



[1] Report of the world Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, development and Peace. United Nations Publications, New York 1980
[3] Op cit. P 34
[5] FGM in Europe | End FGM


Gertrud Aström & Jutta Gablitzka for SDG 1