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Female Genital Mutilation: A Belgian Reality?

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In the context of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on February 6 of 2019, Fedactio looks at the issue of female genital mutilation, a too-often-ignored reality.


Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Today, the United Nations estimate the number of women suffering from the consequences of these mutilations at around 200 million. Even if most of the countries concerned are generally located in Africa, Asia or the Middle East, Belgium is not spared. Indeed, according to the latest prevalence study carried out in 2016 by the FPS Public Health, more than 25,000 women and girls are reported to be concerned by female genital mutilation in Belgium. This study also highlighted that between 2007 and 2012, the number of women and girls who had undergone or were at risk of undergoing this type of mutilation doubled due to the arrival of women coming from countries including Indonesia, Guinea, Iraq and the countries of the Horn of Africa on the Belgian territory. These practises are generally motivated by socio-cultural factors. Typically, the most common reasons given by people perpetrating these acts of violence are social pressure, mutilation as a part of young girls’ education or cultural tradition. Of course, FGM has serious consequences, both for the physical and mental health of the women who have been cut.

This international day is part of several issues that have already been addressed by Fedactio in the past, such as violence against women and gender-based discrimination. As a Federation, Fedactio has been working for years on these various issues through its "Women and Society" platform. In fact, Fedactio advocates the emancipation of women as well as the recognition of their status as equal of men. These practices violate the rights of girls and women, but also of children, and therefore have no place in today's world.

In Belgium, several field associations, including the Group for the Abolition of FGM (GAMS Belgium), work on a daily basis to fight these practices. Fedactio had the opportunity to interview Fabienne Richard, Director of GAMS Belgium. The activities of this organization are structured around four main areas, namely:
- Prevention and awareness of families;
- Psycho-social support for women already excised;
- Training of professionals;
- And advocacy at the political level.
One of GAMS' most important achievements to date is the global action plan for victim support developed from 2016 onwards in collaboration with Fedasil and Intact. This project has made it possible to train at least two staff members present in each of the reception centres where women who have already been excised or are at risk of being excised arrive. Today, we need to focus on education and the inclusion of training that considers the issue of female genital mutilation in the school curricula of future midwives.

Although the subject remains a sore point, there is no doubt that things are changing. One of the most striking examples of this change is the 2018 Nobel prize-giving ceremony where Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. This February 6, the date of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, is therefore an opportunity for Fedactio to draw attention to the fight against this violence.

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