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Irish launch of new European Institute for Gender Equality Report:

“Estimation of girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the European Union”

By Siobán O’Brien Green, TCD

Nobuhle N. Ncube, co-facilitated all the Irish focus groups for this study.

Dr Caitriona Henchion, Medical Director of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).

Philip McCormack, Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

Diane Nurse, National Social Inclusion Office, HSE.

Siobán O’Brien Green, researcher and one of the co-authors of the report.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is universally recognised as a form of gender based violence and a fundamental violation of the human rights of women and girls. FGM is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any practice which purposely alters or injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, as defined by the World Health Organization. In 2013 UNICEF

estimated that globally, more that 125 million women and girls have undergone some form

of FGM. FGM occurs mainly in 29 countries located across Africa and the Middle East, but due to migration from countries where it is practiced it is now a concern for European Union (EU) Member States. By 2014 there have been more that 49 FGM criminal cases in seven different EU countries, demonstrating that migration into the EU alone does not eliminate the risk of FGM for girls.


In 2014 the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) commissioned research on estimating the risk of FGM for girls living in the EU. The research aimed to explore the impact of migration on the continuation or abandonment of FGM and to produce a robust methodology for estimating girls at risk of FGM in EU countries. The research study took place in three pilot countries: Ireland, Portugal and Sweden and drew on the innovative Dutch research undertaken by Marja Exterkate in 2012 entitled “FGM in in the Netherlands: Prevalence, incidence and determinants”. A mixed methods research approach, using qualitative and quantitative data sources, was used to avoid under and over estimations of FGM risk in the pilot countries. The research team also consulted with international experts on FGM prevalence and risk, to ensure that the methodology developed and used was both robust and appropriate.


The research drew on data from the Europe wide census in 2011, in addition to other statistical datasets for females aged under 18 coming from, or being born to mothers from, countries where FGM is documented. Focus group discussions took place in the three countries to assess the probable impact of migration and acculturation on the abandonment of FGM. Two risk variables were developed based on this qualitative research, a high risk scenario with no influence of migration apparent and a considerable influence of migration on FGM continuation, especially for second generation girls leading to a low risk scenario. These variables were applied to the quantitative data collated with subsequent estimates for girls at risk of FGM in Ireland, Portugal and Sweden produced.

As more than 3,700 women living in Ireland are estimated to have undergone FGM, and as this new EIGE report suggests that the number girls at risk of FGM in Ireland varies between 158 (low risk scenario)  and 1,632 (high risk scenario), understanding and responding to this issue is imperative for health and child protection professionals working in Ireland. The stated figures for FGM prevalence and risk of FGM date from 2011, therefore it is likely that the current figures in 2015 are slightly higher. Further future research on the influence of migration on FGM will ideally provide more refined migration and acculturation impact rates and risk variables which will hopefully enhance the accuracy of any future FGM risk estimations.


The EIGE Report was launched in the Champalimaud Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal in June 2015 and it is accompanied by a Step by Step Guide to allow other countries and regions to undertake their own FGM risk estimations using the same methodological process. The Report and Irish research findings were launched in Dublin on 2 December in Europe House with more than 40 participants in attendance.


Siobán O’Brien Green was one of the lead researchers on the “Estimation of girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the European Union” 2015 study. She currently advises the EU multi-country FGM-PREV prevalence study and is undertaking a PhD on domestic violence and pregnancy at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin in.


For more information and to download a copy of the report please follow these EIGE website links:


For further information please contact Siobán O'Brien Green on

Submitted 11.12.15


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