FGM was, until recently, an unknown problem in Portugal. However, a significant increase in the migration of people from FGM-practising countries over last two decades has resulted in greater awareness of the problem as a human-rights, sexual and reproductive health issue affecting the country.
Figures for 2013 indicate that 9,614 women from 29 countries from FGM-practising countries live in Portugal, with the biggest communities from Guinea Bissau (8,063 women), Senegal (470), Guinea (Conakry—419), and Nigeria (156) (Lisboa et al).
Most live in the Greater Lisbon Area (Lisbon—7,324, and Setubal—1,035), Porto (464) and Faro (205). Within the Greater Lisbon Area, these communities are mainly located in the Lisbon District municipalities of Sintra, Loures, Cascais, Lisboa, Amadora, Odivelas, and the Setubal District municipalities of Moita, Seixal, Barreiro and Almada. The Porto zone municipalities with the largest communities from FGM-practising countries are Porto and Gaia, and Algarve Portimão, Albufeira, Loulé and Faro in Algarve.
Based on the number of migrant women and girls arriving in Portugal over the past 15 years and the prevalence of FGM in their countries of origin, there are an estimated 6,576 FGM-affected individuals in Portugal, of whom 5,246 are aged 15-49 and 1,330 aged 50 and over (Lisboa et al, 2015). A further 1,830 girls aged 0-14 are at great risk of FGM before the age of 15.
Since 2013, health professionals have been able to register cases of FGM on a National Health Database (Plataforma de Dados da Saúde—PDS) jointly established by the Sexual Health, Reproductive, Children and Youth Division, Directorate-General of Health (DGS) and the Shared Services of the Ministry of Health (SPMS). By June 2016 a total of 130 cases had been registered.
An analysis of anonymised data associated with the 99 cases of FGM registered in the first two years—all from the Lisbon Area—found that the majority of women were from Guinea Bissau (almost 60 cases), followed by Guinea (Conakry—more than 20 cases). Affected women were aged 16-62, having undergone FGM at between 1 and 28 years of age (average 5.9 years)—most between ages 4-9, followed by ages 1-3. The majority of cases involved FGM procedures classified as type 2 (62%) or type 1 (34%), with 4% involving type 3. In none of these cases was FGM performed in Portugal (DGS, 2016).
FGM-related complications were reported in 41% of registered cases, of which 20 cases involved psychological complications, 14 related to sexual intercourse, 13 obstetric, and 6 urological/gynaecological.
The PDS has provided a useful tool in efforts to better understand FGM in Portugal. However, the register is still in its early stages and so cannot yet provide an accurate picture of the situation nationwide.
Until September 2015, FGM was not a crime specified under the Portuguese Penal Code. However, FGM could be prosecuted as a serious offence against the physical integrity of a woman or girl, although such prosecutions were rare.