Thematic Issue on Women, marginalization, and vulnerability (closed)

Towards a better estimation of prevalence of female genital mutilation in the European Union: interpreting existing evidence in all EU Member States

Els Leye, Lut Mergaert, Catarina Arnaut, Sioban O'Brien Green


Objectives: The study aimed at identifying and analysing existing prevalence data on female genital mutilation in 28 EU countries and to provide recommendations for an improved estimation of prevalence of FGM.

Methods: The study included secondary data collection using a systematic web-based search in all EU Member States to collect existing prevalence estimates on FGM in all EU Member States. The methodologies used in the studies on prevalence data were analysed and discussed at an international expert meeting, in order to provide recommendations to improve prevalence data collection in the EU.

Results: We identified no ongoing, systematic, representative surveys on FGM prevalence in all 28 countries. In 8 countries, we identified 13 prevalence studies and a number of critical issues with these studies. The paper proposes definitions of a baseline and an enhanced FGM prevalence estimate. A number of administrative records were equally identified which could act as a proxy indicator of prevalence and incidence of FGM and indicate whether states are adequately responding to the practice.

Conclusion: Despite the potential of various administrative records to assist and enhance FGM data and prevalence across EU Member States, there remain considerable shortcomings and barriers. Considerable training will be needed for the professionals involved, enhanced data compilation systems, software and tools may be required and specific relevant codes or nomenclatures identified and developed to enhance FGM prevalence estimates.

Els LEYE, Professor, Ghent University - International Centre for Reproductive Health, De Pintelaan UZP 114, 9000 Gent,  Belgium. E-mail:

Siobán O’BRIEN GREEN, Lecturer and tutor, School of Applied Social Sciences, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland. E-mail:

Catarina ARNAUT, Researcher, Yellow Window, Mechelsesteenweg 64/701, Belgium.

Lut MERGAERT, Research director, Yellow Window, Mechelsesteenweg 64/701, Belgium. E-mail:


female genital mutilation; european union; prevalence

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ISSN: 2035-5556

Reg. Tribunale di Roma n. 3321/54