Prevalence in Germany and worldwide

Female genital mutilation is a global phenomenon, not endangering people living in a specific place or having been born in a specific country, but out of group membership and cultural heritage. Among the ethnicities practising FGM, it is usually expected that every girl be cut. Due to state boundaries including both practising ethnicities and ethnicities that do not practise FGM and subsuming them under “one nation”, prevalence rates differ from country to country.

Also, the efforts made to abolish female genital mutilation show different results and can, for instance, lead to whole village communities deciding to abandon the practice. So far, it is documented that female genital mutilation is practised in 29 African countries, on the Arabian Peninsula and in some Asian countries.

Via migration, FMG is practised worldwide, including Germany. It is known about Diaspora communities (communities sharing a common background of identity who are living in a foreign country and are well connected amongst each other) that they hold on to traditions and customs and keep on practising them regardless of their places of residence. Because female genital mutilation seems to be important for the daughters in order for them to belong to the group, as well as with regard to gender roles (and therefore for the starting of a family and the persistence of the group as a whole), the practice continues. The social acceptance within the group, often only poor integration into the mainstream society, which in turn gets handed down to the youngest generation, and the taboo surrounding the practice all prevent discovery and persecution.

In a study by TERRE DES FEMMES (pdf file, only in German), 43% of the gynaecologists reported on having worked with affected women already. In December 2012, the United Nations obliged all member states to issue laws against female genital mutilation and so contribute to its abolishment. In September 2013, Germany met this obligation by passing the law §226a StGB, and in November 2013, the EU decided to inform itself once a year on the progress made on behalf of prevention and support of the affected in its member states.

Already in May 2011, the European Council passed a resolution known as the Istanbul Convention, which addresses violence against women. The resolution is not only an instrument to provide prevention and help for victims of violence, but also incorporates persecution. Article 38 is explicitly directed against the mutilation of female genitals. Germany has signed the Convention, but has not ratified it so far.

TERRE DES FEMMES publishes current statistical data (pdf file) about the estimated number of affected and endangered girls and women living in Germany annually.

We want to point out that fluctuations may arise from different factors like migration waves, prevalence rates, data provided by the UN and other reasons. This neither indicates a decrease nor an increase of threat levels in Germany.