Historical archive

Speech at the International Conference on Female Genital Mutilation in the EU

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Children and Equality

International Conference on Female Genital Mutilation in the EU Organised by EuroNet-FGM April 15-17, 2009 - European Parliament, Brussels High Level Panel 15, april 2009

International Conference on Female Genital Mutilation in the EU
Organised by EuroNet-FGM
April 15-17, 2009 - European Parliament,  Brussels
High Level Panel 15, april 2009:

Check against delivery!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting Norway to this event on what is a very important subject indeed. Zero Tolerance for FGM (female genital mutilation) is high on the political agenda in Norway - as it is internationally.

I wish to focus on how Norway is addressing this issue through a national action plan. For those of you interested in studying the plan more closely, I have brought with me some copies in English. Also, it can be accessed on the Norwegian government’s web-site.

What were our challenges when developing a national plan?

• Identifying the scope of the problem.
• Handling practices that are basically carried out in other countries.
• Assisting those who have been subject to FGM
• Prevention

The first Norwegian Action Plan to combat FGM was published in 2000. The present plan, which is the 3rd one, runs till 2011. Its main objective is prevention. The focus is on changing attitudes through dialogue and dissemination of information involving the groups concerned. Changing perceptions and attitudes will take time, but we believe this to be the right approach in the long run. 
The action plan contains 41 measures which may be grouped under the following 6 main categories:

• Competence building and transfer of knowledge
• Prevention and opinion building
• Available relevant health services
• Intensified efforts during holiday periods
• Effective enforcement of legislation
• Strengthened international efforts

The main points of the action plan can be summarised as follows:

• Firstly, it is of fundamental importance that all relevant actors are involved. As many as 7 ministries are engaged, all levels of administration, child welfare services and police to mention but some.

• Secondly, civil society must be engaged. We are working closely with faith based organizations, immigrant organizations and individuals. We target networks both for men and women. And indeed religious leaders are important allies. Furthermore, together with civil society we target activities during summer vacations, which is the period when we think most girls are in danger of FGM. We need to learn from positive results and best practices. Norway hopes to gain more knowledge of good practices from you who are present here.

• Thirdly; we know that knowledge is important. We need to inform and educate people on the serious health consequences of FGM. We need to distribute information to relevant groups on what Norwegian legislation says about FGM. We need to communicate the position of Islam and other religions on this. And we of course need to inform all girls and women about their legal rights.

This is empowerment of women, which is a well proven strategy in many fields. It may not yield results overnight, but it will work in the long run when what one wants to do is change attitudes. And attitudes are what FGM is all about.

And not to forget: It is important to reach out to women and girls who have been subjected to FGM, by offering health services at the local level. 

There is also the necessary legal component to the Action Plan. Since 1995 FGM has been forbidden by law for inhabitants in Norway. Effective enforcement of legislation is necessary.  It is both a duty and a right for schools, health services and other relevant institutions to disclose information to the Child Welfare Service if they suspect that a girl is in danger of FGM. This service will act upon information received. The Child Welfare Service may report cases to the police. There are suspected cases of FGM under investigation in Norway, but so far, no one has been sentenced under this legal provision.

There is a political debate in Norway on the role of clinical examinations. It is the policy of the government that such examinations must be voluntary and should be offered to women and girls from countries where FGM is prevalent.

I believe that the strength of our Action Plan is that it is a genuine partnership between civil society, individuals and the public sector.

Thank you.