End FGM EU writes its recommendations to the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU

Bulgaria takes the Presidency mandate as the second Member State of the current Trio composed by Estonia and Austria. The Trio programme emphasises a key area on empowerment and protection of all citizens, which is of particular interest to the End FGM European Network, since it entails: gender equality, gender mainstreaming, the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, empowering young people, coordinated approach to migration, assessment of the best interest of the child, protection of human rights, international cooperation and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Furthermore, End FGM EU welcomes the Trio Presidency Declaration on Equality between Women and Men, which stresses that eliminating all forms of gender-based violence is a precondition for achieving gender equality and highlights the importance of coordinated efforts at EU and Member States level towards this end. We were reassured to hear that these elements will also be an important focus during the Bulgarian presidency, since the fact that no specific reference to this issue is made in the official priorities and programme raised quite some concerns.

We deem important that the first priority of the Bulgarian Presidency is “The Future of Europe and the Young People”, and we call upon you to ensure that the cohesion and solidarity you want to achieve within the EU do not neglect the diaspora communities that live in our Union, and particularly the thousands of girls who every year are at risk of undergoing FGM, and who might face isolation and restrictions to their human rights, including their right to education, health, physical and psychological integrity.

Building on these elements, on the Council Conclusions "Preventing and combating all forms of violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation"of June 2014, on the Trio Presidency Declaration on Equality between Men and Women and on the programme and priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency on a socially cohesive and solidary Europe focused on youth, End FGM EU calls on the Presidency and the Council to act, in the scope of its competences to:

  • Ensure human rights remain a core priority in the EU agenda, notably by mainstreaming human rights issues when relevant in EU legislation and policy, both externally and internally.
  • Mainstream gender into the Council’s contributions to EU legislation and policy, in particular those related to human rights, migration and international protection, health, research and data collection, development, women’s rights, children’s rights and the fight against gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation (FGM).
  • Work with the European Commission and Member States to ensure the effective transposition and implementation in all EU Member States of Directive 2012/29/EU (Victims’ Rights Directive), Directive 2011/95/EU (Qualification Directive), Directive 2013/32/EU (Asylum Procedures Directive) and Directive 2013/33/EU (Reception Conditions Directive); work together with the Parliament and the Commission towards the revision of these Directives and ensure they will maintain a strong focus on vulnerable groups and mainstream gender.
  • In line with the Bulgarian priority “Security and stability in a strong and united Europe”, continue the work to reform the Common European Asylum System to be voted on in 2018, in particular by ensuring these proposals:

International protection

  • Mainstream gender and human rights to enhance the protection of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees.
  • Give clear guidelines to Member States as regards the international protection of vulnerable groups fleeing past or fear of persecution, including FGM survivors and persons at risk of FGM e.g. gender and child sensitivity, access to female interviewers and interpreters, credibility assessment taking trauma into account, gendered data collection - including concerning country of origin information -, acknowledgement of past persecution etc.
  • Develop high gender- children- and culturally-sensitive standards as regards the qualification process, the asylum procedures process and the reception conditions of asylum-seekers and refugees to ensure the respect of human rights and international law.
  • Create an effective and adequately funded EU Agency for Asylum to support Member States, in particular on gender-sensitive country of origin information, training of asylum officers and fairness of the asylum system.
  • Involve tailored training of professionals e.g. health practitioners, public and asylum officers etc., notably on gender issues and gender-based violence, including FGM.

Istanbul Convention and the Sustainable Development Goals

  • Work towards Bulgaria’s ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) by the end of the EU Presidency Semester, and ensure its unreserved implementation through prevention, protection, prosecution and integrated policies to end violence against women and girls in Bulgaria; encourage and invite all EU Member States to ratify and implement it.
  • In order to ensure the full Bulgarian implementation of the Istanbul Convention, amend the existing provisions on severe bodily harm in the Criminal Code to ensure they cover not only committing the crime, but also coercing, inciting or procuring its commission, in line with Article 38 of the Convention. A more desirable option, however, would be to introduce FGM as a specific stand-alone offence in the Criminal Code with an extraterritorial applicability.
  • Work with relevant stakeholders, notably the EEAS, the UN, EU Member States’ governments and third countries to develop internal and external joint actions towards the implementation of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development, with particular attention to SDG 5.3 on eliminating all harmful practices, and the European Consensus on Development.

Ensure ratification of the Istanbul Convention by the EU and that there is full unreserved implementation. Furthermore, ensure that a clear, specific and detailed Code of Conduct is adopted as a framework for EU and Member States’ actions. Finally, ensure that an EU Coordinator on ending violence against women is appointed within the European Commission to overview the implementation.

Data collection and funding

  • Encourage data collection using a common methodology on the prevalence of gender-based violence in each Member State, including in the asylum system, with a special focus on FGM. Ensure the cross-border coordination and sharing of collected data through e-databases among Member States.
  • Work in collaboration with the European Parliament and the European Commission, including on the next Multiannual Financial Framework post 2020, to ensure sustainable, accessible and flexible funding, especially concerning its geographical scope and timeframe, on relevant matters e.g. joint programmes between EU and third-countries, programmes against harmful practices and violence against women and girls, longer-term community-led awareness-raising and behavioural change programmes, etc.

Member States and EU Institutions

  • Call for Member States and the European Commission to develop and fund education and awareness-raising actions and programmes on human rights and on gender-based violence, including on FGM and in collaboration with FGM-affected communities.
  • Call for Member States to develop actions and programmes to end violence against women and girls, including FGM, dedicated to prevention and protection, and to collaborate with each other and with third-country partners to identify and implement promising practices in this area.
  • Call for Member States to ensure appropriate training of relevant professionals (health practitioners, public officers, asylum officers, police, teachers, social workers, journalists, etc.) and access to holistic and specialised services to address the issue of gender-based violence, including FGM.End FGM EU writes its recommendations to the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU”