Statement - First FGM conviction in Portugal

On 8 January in Sintra, Portugal, a Court has found guilty a woman for practicing or allowing the practice of FGM on her 1 and a half years old daughter during a trip to Guinea Bissau in 2019. This is the first conviction around FGM in Portugal.

The young woman, who is now 21 years old, was sentenced to three years of effective imprisonment in the first Portuguese conviction around FGM. Her lawyer is now appealing the decision in second instance to lower the penalty.

Many agree that the Judges wanted to send a zero-tolerance signal with an exemplary first conviction which would have a dissuasive effect on other cases in the future. However, while the effective implementation of laws is an important part of ending FGM, it is not enough. Prosecution doesn’t equal protection for girls and women subjected to cutting. A conviction means a case in which FGM hasn’t been prevented. These harsh convictions, disregarding the context behind the practice, may in fact act as a deterrent for Survivors and women and girls at risk of FGM to come forward, making them fear the prosecution of their family and community.

“Indeed, ending FGM cannot only be about prosecution but also, and most importantly, about prevention and protection” declared Anna Widegren, End FGM EU Director. “This means first and foremost closely working with communities and creating the conditions for them to speak out against embedded social norms, which make practicing FGM not an individual choice but a collective community pressure. Secondly, prevention must be done through training key professionals to be able to speak to communities about the real risks of FGM.”

The Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, also known as the Istanbul Convention, provides a useful framework for tackling FGM which is based on prevention, protection, prosecution and integrated policies. Building on this framework, and with the best interests of children in mind, End FGM EU campaigns for increased efforts to ‘prevent and protect’ those under threat of undergoing FGM by empowering FGM-affected communities to abandon the practice and training relevant professionals to be better sensitized in dealing with and handling potential cases of FGM.


What is FGM?

Over 600,000 women living in Europe have undergone the harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and close to 180,000 young women are at risk from it in 13 countries alone. Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is mostly carried out by traditional cutters, who often play other central roles in communities. FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

What is End FGM European Network?

The End FGM European Network (End FGM EU) is a European umbrella organisation consisting of 30 national NGO experts on female genital mutilation (FGM), in 14 European countries.

How to talk about or report on FGM?

FGM is a sensitive topic and needs to be reported as such. For more information on How to talk about FGM click here.

For further information please contact the End FGM European Network Communications Officer Myriam Mhamedi at