1996. The Group for the Abolition of Female Genital Mutilation (GAMS Belgium) is set up by the Senegalese Khadidiatou Diallo, in response to the plight of women from Somalia seeking asylum in Belgium.
1997. The International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH) Ghent launches the first European project on FGM, towards a Consensus on FGM in the European Union, with the support of the EU’s Daphne programme (Ref 97/2/096).
1998. ICRH and GAMS Belgium organise the first European conference on FGM, in Ghent, bringing together health experts, researchers and NGOs from Europe, the US and Africa to discuss medical, social and legal issues related to FGM. With the encouragement of researcher Els Leye and Senator Marleen Temmerman, also a gynaecologist, ICRH becomes involved in numerous national and European research projects and publications.
GAMS and ICRH thus played an important role in raising awareness of the problem, to both politicians and professionals at the end of the 1990s.
2000. Law specifically criminalising FGM is adopted (Article 409 of the Belgian Penal Code, comes into force 1 April 2001), spurred on by Amnesty International and GAMS Belgium.
2008. GAMS Belgium and 21 partners organise first national campaign against FGM, “No excision for my daughter”, aimed at raising awareness of the risk of FGM when girls are returned to countries of origin for the school summer holidays. Launched in June, Federal Minister of Health Laurette Onkelinx announces four resolutions that come to define the fight against FGM Belgium: 1) conduct a prevalence study; 2) write a guide for professionals; 3) distribute guide to all hospitals and set up professional trainings; (4) assess the relevance to reimburse the reconstruction of the clitoris in cases of FGM.
Concerted Strategies for the Fight against FGM created a network established with the support of the Observatory of AIDS and Sexualities. Participatory workshops lead to a framework for action in Belgium’s French-speaking community, providing the basis upon which to expand the NAP to address other forms of violence.
2009. Specialist legal reference centre INTACT is established by Céline Verbrouck, a lawyer working to protect the rights of refugees. This NGO aims to provide protection of girls and women at the national and international levels. It offers training and advice to individuals and professionals engaged in legal proceedings.
2010. First NAP to integrate FGM, forced marriage and honour-based violence (2010-14).
2012. VFK working group on FGM established, involving GAMS, INTACT and ICRH, developing learning modules, a protocol on FGM prevention and a decision tree related to FGM.
2014. First two centres for the multidisciplinary care of circumcised women (including reconstruction of the clitoris) open, at the CHU St-Pierre, Brussels and the UZ, Ghent, both approved by INAMI/RIZIV (Belgium’s National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance).
2015. Sensoa (Flemish Centre of Expertise for Sexual Health) and BZgA (German Federal Centre for Health Education) publish online information on sexual health in various languages, including FGM (available at http://www.zanzu.be/en/female genital mutilation)
NAP (2015-19) includes FGM as a priority.
2016. Launch of the Men Speak Out (www.mso.eu) awareness-raising campaign, coordinated by GAMS Belgium, which aims to involve men in the fight against FGM. Posters and videos produced with support from the EU’s Daphne Programme and IEFH.