Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) – Female Genital Mutilation
The Istanbul Convention is the first European legally-binding instrument specifically devoted to violence against women and an important step towards greater gender equality. It covers various forms of gender-based violence, which is defined as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately” (Article 3 d).
In Europe, many girls and women are affected or threatened by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – a fact that for long has remained unacknowledged. They either run the risk of being taken to their parents’ country of origin or of undergoing the procedure in a Council of Europe member state. For those who have been affected, FGM will lead to serious physical and psychological suffering, most likely causing long-term health consequences. Those at risk of undergoing the practice are often very young and lack the means to say no.
Most Council of Europe member states do not have specific legislation on FGM. Moreover, awareness among professionals is generally low, including that of teachers, social workers, and health professionals who are often the only ones in a position to identify a girl at risk.
The Istanbul Convention recognises that FGM exists in Europe and that it needs to be sufficiently and systematically addressed. It is hoped that the entry into force of the Convention and its implementation at national level will greatly increase the standards of protection for victims of FGM, provide them with the support they need, and bring more perpetrators to justice.