Female genital mutilation

The practice of female circumcision is considered mutilation in the Netherlands and is punishable as a criminal offence under Dutch law.

What is female genital mutilation?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an age-old tradition. It is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.’ The circumcision can be performed on babies, children and adolescents and often if a girl or woman is about to be married.

A punishable offence

Female genital mutilation is prohibited in the Netherlands. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 12 years. However, the sentence can be higher if the offender is a family member of the victim. It is also illegal to assist or encourage another person to perform FGM. A Dutch citizen or a foreign citizen legally resident in the Netherlands can be punished even if the offence is committed abroad. Doctors have the obligation to report suspected cases of FGM and may break patient confidentiality rules if necessary.

Health risks

Female genital mutilation may result in psychological problems and problems relating to sexuality. There is a considerable risk of physical disorders and medical complications, not only during the operation but afterwards as well.

No connection to religion or culture

There is no religion which prescribes female genital mutilation. Religious leaders from all of the world’s communities of faith have declared themselves to be opposed to female genital mutilation. There is no statement anywhere in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic scriptures to the effect that females must be circumcised.

Declaration against FGM

The Dutch government has drawn up an official document to help parents resist pressure from their families. This document is known as the Declaration against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Parents are given a copy of the document by children’s health care centres and school doctors.

What should you do in the event of female genital mutilation?

If you are afraid that your sister, daughter, a female friend or acquaintance will be subjected to female genital mutilation, you should do everything in your power to prevent this.

Questions about FGM?

Contact The Hague's Public Health Department (GGD Haaglanden).

Also see

Published: 13 September 2016Modified: 24 July 2020