New prevention campaign targets female genital mutilation in Belgium

Non-profit organisation GAMS Belgium launched a prevention campaign on Tuesday, ahead of the summer holidays, to prevent female genital mutilation (FGM). The NGO will organise events throughout the week to raise awareness of the risks and consequences of female genital mutilation.

According to children's rights organisation Unicef, at least 200 million girls and women in 30 African countries, the Middle East and Asia have undergone some form of FGM. "But the risks also exist in Europe," said GAMS president Fabienne Richard.

As of 31 December 2020, an estimated 23,000 women had been circumcised in Belgium, though the practice is prohibited by Belgian law and several international conventions. The most affected regions or provinces were the Brussels Capital region (10,037), Antwerp (6,749) and Liège (4,381).

Female genital mutilation involves many dangers for women, such as medical complications or psychological trauma

At the same time, more than 12,000 girls were at risk of being circumcised if prevention was not put in place. These circumcisions can be performed, for example, when they temporarily return to their country of origin, but such practices have also been observed in France and England. There is no evidence of genital mutilation taking place in Belgium.

Female genital mutilation refers to any procedure that results in partial or total removal of the external female genital organs or other injury to the genital organs for non-medical reasons. This involves many dangers for women, such as medical complications or psychological trauma.

This is why GAMS decided to launch a major prevention campaign before the start of the summer holidays. Throughout the week, literary evenings, debates and meetings in schools throughout Belgium will be organised around the theme. Various tools to help professionals better detect FGM will also be presented via webinars.



State secretary for gender equality and diversity Marie-Colline Leroy, Halimata Fofana and Fabienne Richard at the launch of the national prevention campaign © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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