Alarming new evidence has come to light concerning the practice of female genital mutilation. Although outlawed in all EU countries, the act is still prevalent in parts of the world, and more worryingly occurring in immigrant communities within Europe. On 7 October, the Women's Rights Committee organised a hearing on the subject.
The European Parliament has always been a staunch opponent to gender-based rites of passage including mutilation. In 2001 it passed a resolution condemning the practice. As part of an ongoing campaign Cristiana Muscardini (UEN/IT) presented to the committee a report on combating the practice in Europe.
During the hearing MEPs were shown a video illustrating the work of a Mali NGO "AMSOPT" engaged in promoting a change of attitudes and raising awareness of the health and social risks involved. Often the brutal practice can cause lifelong trauma to young girls.
"Dangers to the child"
According to the World Health Organisation, "the practice causes severe pain and has several immediate and long-term health consequences, including difficulties in childbirth also causing dangers to the child".
Ms Muscardini said at the hearing that "this problem is still far from resolved even in the EU. It represents a mutilation to the integration process in the EU, a defamation to gender equality and it has nothing to do with religion".
The Italian MEP echoed the sentiments of many MEPs by suggesting a radical change in attitudes was required by those practicing such mutilation: "Immigrant parents should be helped in understanding that parenting in a host country will require them, to some extent, to adopt attitudes and customs different from those to which they have been used" she said.