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Speaking out to protect the victims of FGM/C in Belgium

6 February 2016

Hon. Els van Hoof during an AWEPA FGM/C sensitisation workshop in Burkina Faso in November 2013.

Hon. Els van Hoof during an AWEPA FGM/C sensitisation workshop in Burkina Faso in November 2013.

Brussels, Belgium – Hon. Els van Hoof, Belgian Senator and Political Coordinator for AWEPA’s Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) Programme, has drafted a bill concerning medical support for victims of FGM/C.

Hon. Van Hoof, who has been working for many years to put an end to this practice, presented the bills to the Belgian Parliament on 6 February 2016, the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.

The first aim of the bill is to expand the existing regulations surrounding the right of physicians and health care providers to speak in cases of FGM/C. While, professional secrecy may currently be broken only in cases where FGM/C is carried out on minors or vulnerable women, the new bill aims to grant professionals the right to speak out to protect victims of all ages and in any situation.

The second aim of the bill concerns the mandatory registration of FGM/C in the medical files of patients. According to Hon. Van Hoof, “there is currently no accurate or consistent record of FGM/C in most Belgian hospitals. From a scientific perspective, it is therefore not possible to produce accurate statistical data regarding FGM/C. This also complicates preventative action against the practice.”

FGM/C in Belgium

Despite the international attention surrounding FGM/C, rising numbers of women and girls in Belgium are living with the consequences of this harmful practice. This comes partly as a result of global trends such as migration, and requires an increase in awareness of the issue and its often harmful consequences.

In Hon. Van Hoof’s view, “we must dare to state the facts as they are. The physical and psychological consequences are permanent in many cases. We’re talking about infections, incontinence, cysts, internal bleeding, increased risk of stillborn children and degraded sexual experience.”