More than 5,200 women in Portugal thought to be victims of female genital mutilation

Data || On the day signalled for “Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)”, Teresa Morais, secretary of state for equality and parliamentary affairs, has revealed there could be as many as 5,246 women living in Portugal victims of this horrific practice.

For now, concrete data exists for only 43 of them. It was gathered ‘by chance’: 40% due to hospital stays, 30% due to antenatal care and 20% as a result of routine medical checks.

Just this year, another three women have come to light.

Morais told Lusa that none of the women appear to have been mutilated in Portugal.

They are all of African extraction – in their late 20s to early 30s – and believed to have been victims at early ages (around six years old) before moving here.

As the World Health Organisation states in its fact sheet on FGM, the barbaric practice has no health benefits whatsoever and puts lives at risk from all kinds of related complications – even the lives of babies born to women who have undergone FGM.

No one has details on how many deaths result from the practice as it is meant to be illegal in almost all the 30 African countries where it goes on.

But the good news, Morais has told Lusa, is that a new database being compiled to catalogue the reality of FGM signals “a very significant advance” for knowledge of the situation in Portugal.

“Up until 2013, everyone speculated over the number of cases, but no one knew how many there were. Now we are beginning to find out,” she said.

The research here is being coordinated by the Centre for Sociological Studies, the national observatory of violence, and the New University of Lisbon’s faculty of social and human sciences.

The study is due to be completed by the end of this month, but already compilers have come to a number of bleak conclusions. Perhaps the most stunning is that there may be as many as 5,246 mutilated women living in Portugal.

“It is just an estimate, on the basis of the number of women resident from the countries where FGM is practised,” Morais told Lusa.

Of the estimated total, more than 90% are believed to have come from Guinea-Bissau, the only Portuguese-speaking country listed by international organisations as being notorious for FGM.

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