As with many issues related to sexual and reproductive rights in Portugal, the issue of FGM was first broached by the NGO sector with the publication of research by Associação para o Planeamento da Família (APF). Entitled “Knowledge and Attitudes of Health Professionals Regarding FGM”, APF’s study raised awareness of FGM among parliamentarians, policymakers, journalists and other NGOs.
Together with its international and national partners, APF developed projects to promote public awareness of FGM and to advocate for national policies to tackle the problem. The first official reference to FGM was made in the 2003-06 National Plan Against Domestic Violence.
National action plans
Portugal’s First Programme of Action for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (PAPEMGF—2007-10) was approved in 2009, in the context of the third National Plan for Equality, Citizenship and Gender (2007-10). An intersectoral working group of government departments and NGOs was convened to implement, monitor and evaluate programme activities (for more details of group members, see section on Institutions, below).
The FGM programme entailed 30 activities, arranged around five goals:
- to promote awareness and prevention
- to support and to integrate
- to train
- to gain knowledge and to research
- to advocate
The working group included a number of departments under the prime minister’s deputy minister, including the coordinating Comissão para a Igualdade de Género e Cidadania (Portuguese Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality—CIG) and the High Commission for Migration (ACIDI/ACM). Other working-group members were the Directorate-General of Health (DGS—Ministry of Health), the Directorate-General of Education (DGIDC/DGE—Ministry of Education), the Ministry of Internal Administration, the Mission for Cooperation and Language Institute (Camões—Ministry of External Affairs), as well as the National Commission for the Promotion of Rights and Protection of Children and Youth, the Employment and Vocational Training Institute (IEFP) and Social Security (all three from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security), and two international organisations (the International Migrants Organisation (OIM) and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP). NGOs included APF and UMAR (the Women’s Collective Alternative and Answer).
According to the First PAPEMFG Evaluation Report, “This first programme has contributed to make this practice visible to several strategic agents involved in preventing and combating FGM and helped to put the issue on the public agenda and to stimulate discussion on this subject within the national and European context and among the Portuguese-speaking countries”.
Portugal’s Second PAPEMGF (2011-13), announced in 2010, maintained the same five focal areas and working group as the first.
According to the Second PAPEMFG Evaluation Report, “The execution of the Second Programme of Action came to be characterised by the strengthening of the intersectoral working group on FGM, which has also experienced new dynamics. This group is responsible for the implementation of the Programme, as well as for boosting the measures through a more direct involvement of the health, internal affairs and justice sectors. The development of concerted action strategies was established as a priority, fundamentally aiming at: Raising awareness of communities of consequences of FGM; informing and training healthcare professionals mainly in areas with the highest concentration of population potentially at risk; and activating the criminal dimension of FGM within the programme of action, through the involvement of magistrates and criminal police departments. Consequently, the Guideline for Healthcare Professionals on Female Genital Mutilation no. 005/2012, of 6 February 2012, was issued and disseminated, consisting of a set of standards of practice for healthcare professionals on this matter, including guidance on procedures for the referral of the cases, as well as for the enforcement of intervention plans and for supporting families, and a Guide to Criminal Police Practice and Procedure was elaborated with the same principles for security professionals. Within the framework of the Health Data Platform, a specific registration field for FGM cases was created, and its existence and usefulness must now be the subject of intense dissemination among healthcare professionals. The enhancement of the participation and involvement of immigrant associations representative of communities in which FGM is performed must also be mentioned within the development of actions for the prevention of this harmful traditional practice, leading to the establishment of the Prize “Against FGM — Change the Future Now”, which had its first edition in 2012.
The Third PAPEMGF (2014-17) was published in 2013 and has since been included in the Fifth National Plan to Prevent and Combat Domestic and Gender-based Violence. The Third Programme aims to reinforce the training of health professionals and child-protection staff working with FGM-affected women and girls, as well as to intensify activities and projects directed at FGM-affected communities in Portugal.
In addition, five new organisations were incorporated into the working group—three NGOs from affected communities (Associação de Melhoramentos e Recreativo do Talude—AMRT, Associação de Intervenção Comunitária, Desenvolvimento Social e de Saúde—AJPAS, and Associação Balodiren) and two public organisations under the Ministry of Justice—the Attorney General and the Superior Council of Magistracy.
The systematic internal and external evaluation of all three FGM programmes has played critical role in understanding and monitoring progress made in the fight against FGM in Portugal.
Multidisciplinary guidelines and protocols
A key output of the three FGM programmes has been sector-specific guidelines and protocols, developed by participating professionals.
Directorate-General of Health (Direcção Geral da Saude—DGS): DGS is the technical department of the Ministry of Health, responsible for producing national guidelines on clinical practice. National Guidelines on FGM for Clinical Practice, published by the Division for Sexual and Reproductive, Youth and Child Health in 2012, provide a description of FGM and its health consequences, practical instructions for the medical treatment of FGM and guidance on how to proceed in the case of an at-risk child.
National Commission for the Promotion of Rights and Protection of Children and Youth (Comissão Nacional de Promoção dos Direitos e Proteção de Crianças e Jovens—CNPDPCJ) is the national authority for children and youth protection under the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, responsible for coordinating municipal Child and Youth Protection authorities.
The Commission’s Handbook of Procedures for Local Child and Youth Protection, published in 2014, provides detailed information on FGM, as well as practical steps for the professional faced with FGM, including identification, contacts and communication with families, and how to communicate with relevant departments, particularly the judiciary.
Judicial police (Polícia Judiciária—PJ) is the main criminal police department in Portugal. The Escola de Polícia Judiciária (Criminal Police High School) published Procedural Guidelines for Criminal Police Organisations on FGM in 2012, providing information on FGM and its consequences, legal aspects of FGM in Portugal and practical guidance for police professionals.
The main network to prevent and combat FGM in Portugal is the Intersectoral Working Group of Support for PAPEMGF, established in 2008. The group is now organising, monitoring and evaluating the Third PAPEMGF, and includes the following members.
I. Public and governmental organisations
Attorney General’s Office (PGR) – Procuradoria Geral da República (Justice System)
Provides guidance and training to magistrates and judges.
Camões Mission – Institute for Cooperation and Language – Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua (a department of Ministry of External Affaires)
Camões provides linkages to Portugal’s overseas development aid projects and respective sources of financial support, as well as to the Portuguese diplomatic service in relevant countries.
Commission for Gender Equality and Citizenship (CIG—Comissão para a Igualdade de Género e Cidadania
A department under the Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality/Prime Minister’s Deputy Minister, CIG is a key PAPEMGF participant, responsible for producing, coordinating, monitoring and evaluating all national programmes. CIF is also active in the promotion of women’s rights, and the main governmental agency involved in work to end FGM.
Directorate-General of Health (DGS—Direção Geral da Saude
DGS is the technical department of the Ministry of Health, responsible for producing national guidelines on clinical practice. National Guidelines on FGM for Clinical Practice, published by the Division for Sexual and Reproductive, Youth and Child Health in 2012, provide healthcare professionals with a description of FGM and its health consequences, practical instructions for the medical treatment of FGM and guidance on how to proceed in the case of an at-risk child. DGS provides links to National Health Service units, as well as training for health professionals, including three post-graduate courses organized with the Nursing Schools of Lisbon and Setubal. DGS is a key organisation in the identification and support of potential women and girls affected by or at risk of FGM.
Directorate-General of Justice Policy (Direcção Geral da Política de Justiça)
A department of the Ministry of Justice, the DG represents the working group within the Ministry.
Directorate-General of Education (Direcção Geral de Educaçã)
A department of the Ministry of Education, DGE is the main Ministry department involved in developing school curricula and on pedagogical matters, and is responsible for introducing FGM in the context of Citizenship Education.
Employment and Vocational Training Institute (IEFP—Instituto de Emprego e Formação ProfissionalA department of Ministry of Labour, Solidarity, and Social Security, IEFP is the main government department for professional training, operating a national network of professional training centres for 15-64-year-olds. The department is also in charge of curricula for professional education, including FGM as one of the issues covered.
High Commission for Migration (ACM—Alto Comissariado para as Migrações
A department of the Secretary of State of Citizenship and Equality/Prime Minister’s Deputy Minister), the High Commission provides legal and social support to migrants and technical and financial support to migrants’ associations.
Internal Administration Ministry (MAI—Ministério da Administração Interna)
Represents the working group in the Ministry of Home Affairs, through Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (Boards and Foreigners Service—SEF), of which the most important is the border police.
Judicial Police High School (Escola da Polícia Judicária)
A department of the Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária) under the Ministry of Justice, provides training to criminal police professionals and linkage to the main criminal police organisations.
National Commission for the Promotion of Rights and Protection of Children and Youth (CNPDPCJ—Comissão Nacional de Promoção dos Direitos e Proteção das Crianças e Jovens
A department of the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity, and Social Security, this is the national authority on child and youth protection, responsible for coordinating local networks of Child and Youth Protection authorities (CPCJ), to which CNPDPCJ provides technical guidance and support.
There is at least one CPCJ in each municipality, composed of a local network of organisations. They are the most prominent services for child and youth protection and must act as soon as a risk situation is identified. They have the authority to remove children from situations of risk, which may include a child’s own family.
Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM—Conselho Superior de Magistratura)
A department of the Ministry of Justice, provides guidance and training for judges and legal advice.
II. International organisations
Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) – Comunidade de Países de Língua Portuguesa
An international organisation of lusophone countries, which works to produce common policies on issues including FGM.
International Organisation for Migration (OIM—Organização Internacional para as Migrações)Working with and for migrants’ associations, on topics including FGM.
III. Non-governmental organisations
AJPAS—Associação de Intervenção Comunitária, Desenvolvimento Social e de Saúde (Community Intervention Association, Social Development and Health)
Founded in 1993, AJPAS has been working on FGM since 2000, taking a leading role in work with and for migrant communities, beginning in the Amadora area and later nationwide. Based in Amadora, AJPAS develops activities on public health (FGM and HIV/AIDS), social support, education, employment and training.
APF—Associação para o Planeamento da Família (Family Planning Association)
Established in 1967, APF pioneered the issue of FGM from the late 1990s, promoting awareness of the then unknown problem, advocating with parliamentarians and policymakers, and producing educational and training materials. APF plays a key role in the organisation of the PAPEMGF Intersectoral Working Group and has been also involved in community projects with Guinea Bissau diaspora organisations.
UMAR—União de Mulheres Alternativa e Resposta (Women’s Collective Alternative and Answer)
A feminist women’s association (non-governmental, non-profit organisation and institution of public utility) formally constituted in 1976, UMAR is active throughout Portugal, developing consistent and publicly recognised work in combating violence against women. A founding member of the PAPEMGF Intersectoral Working Group, UMAR also co-organised the 2016 First Regional Meeting for Integrated Intervention to End Female Genital Mutilation, attracting over 130 participants.
A Guinea Bissau diaspora community NGO, involved in awareness-raising activities.
Associação para a Mudança e Representação Transcultural
A local NGO from the municipality of Loures, working with lusophone communities to promote information and educational activities, including to combat FGM.