Eighty cases of female genital mutilation were registered in Portugal last year.
The Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality claims that the work being done to combat this most hideous of crimes against "women over the age of 15, in late adolescence or adulthood" is being effective but needs further work within Portugal's foreign communities.
Catarina Marcelino, at an international seminar in Lisbon organised by the Center for International Studies, said "The work that is being done with health professionals is giving results, but what we really want is to eradicate the practice."
The eighty cases in 2016 are only those registered in the database of the Ministry of Health. Marcelinco admitted that this is "a very difficult area of work," since it is not always easy to identify those who have been mutilated.
"There has been an effort in recent years in Portugal to provide tools for health professionals through a specific postgraduate course," but the security forces also are involved, namely the Foreigners and Borders Service, because this "it is a public crime."
At the seminar, ‘Multisectorial training guide on female genital mutilation," information was distributed to "give tools to these professionals to be able to act."
As in all other acts of violence, "there are signs" within the family dynamic which "allow us to identify that something is not right," said Marcelino, adding that children’s behaviour, "and sometimes even physical reactions, should raise suspicions that they have been victims of this practice."
Although the act of mutilation is said to be "almost non-existent in Portugal," the minister said that it is necessary to be attentive, because families take the children out of the country, especially in the summer and at Easter, to force the operation on them.
For this reason, campaigns have been carried out at national airports and in Guinea-Bissau to alert security forces to the situation.
For Catarina Marcelino, the most important thing is to prevent this from happening, and for this to happen, further community education is necessary.
The Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality added that the new action plan, which begins in 2018, continues to focus on working with health, police and education professionals, but also focuses on communities and religious leaders who "have very positive messages against FGM and against women being mistreated within communities."
Female Genital Mutilation is a reality in Europe, where it is estimated that more than 500,000 women already have been directly affected, and where about 180,000 are at risk each year.
Around the world, according to the latest estimates, there are about 200 million women affected. In Portugal the figures point to more than 6,000 women and girls who have been victims of Female Genital Mutilation.
Female genital mutilation, also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual piercing, cutting, removing, or sewing closed all or part of a girl's or woman's external genitals for no medical reason.
The mutilation is carried out as a way to control women's sexuality, which is sometimes said to be insatiable if parts of the genitalia, especially the clitoris, are not removed. It is thought to ensure virginity before marriage and fidelity afterward, and to increase male sexual pleasure.
Although estimates of the prevalence of mutilation vary, sources consistently have found the practice to be forced on the majority of women in the Horn of Africa, in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso, and in Sudan and Egypt.