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Texts adopted
Thursday, 20 September 2001 - Brussels Final edition
Female genital mutilation
A5-0285/2001

European Parliament resolution on female genital mutilation (2001/2035(INI))

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to the motion for a resolution of 26 February 2001 by Maurizio Turco and others on female genital mutilation (B5-0686/2000/rev. ), signed by 317 Members of the European Parliament,

-  having regard to Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948,

-  having regard to Articles 2, 3 and 26 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966,

-  having regard to Articles 2, 3 and 12 of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted in 1966,

-  having regard to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted on 4 November 1950,

-  having regard in particular to Article 5(a) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979,

-  having regard to Articles 2(1), 19(1), 24(3), 34 and 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted on 20 November 1989 by the United Nations General Assembly,

-  having regard to Articles 1, 2(f), 5, 10(c), 12 and 16 of Recommendation No 19 of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, adopted in 1992,

-  having regard to the Vienna Declaration and Action Programme adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights held in June 1993,

-  having regard to the Declaration by the United Nations General Assembly on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument on human rights dealing exclusively with violence against women, adopted in December 1993,

-  having regard to the reports of the United Nations special rapporteur, Mrs Coomaraswamy, on violence against women,

-  having regard to the Declaration and Action Programme of the United Nations Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 13 September 1994),

-  having regard to the Declaration and Action Programme of the World Conference on Women (Beijing, 15 September 1995),

-  having regard to its resolution of 15 June 1995(1) on the Fourth World Conference on Women,

-  having regard to its resolution of 15 June 2000(2) on the special United Nations meeting "Women 2000" of 5-9 June 2000,

-  having regard to the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (Cotonou Agreement) signed on 23 June 2000, and the Financial Protocol attached thereto,

-  having regard to its resolution of 18 May 2000(3) on the follow-up to the Beijing Platform for Action (2000/2020(INI)),

-  having regard to its resolution of 13 March 1997(4) on the violation of women's rights,

-  having regard to its resolution of 16 September 1997(5) on violence against women,

-  having regard to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted on 12 March 1999 by the UN Commission on the Status of Women,

-  having regard to the Council of Europe's resolution of 12 April 1999 on female genital mutilation,

-  having regard to its position of 16 April 1999 on an amended proposal adopting a programme of Community action (DAPHNE) (2000-2004) on measures aimed to prevent violence against children, young persons and women (COM(1999) 82 - C4-0099/1999 - 1998/0192(COD) )(6) ,

-  having regard to its position of 15 November 2000 on the Community framework strategy on gender equality (COM(2000) 335 - C5-0386/2000 - 2000/0143(CNS) )(7) ,

-  having regard to its decision of 14 December 2000 to include female genital mutilation in budget line B5-802 of the 2001 budget (DAPHNE programme)(8) ,

-  having regard to the recommendations made by the group of experts on female genital mutilation in the context of the DAPHNE/FGM programme in November 1998(9) ,

-  having regard to the report adopted on 3 May 2001(10) by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on female sexual mutilation,

-  having regard to the joint declaration made by the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, at the European Council meeting in Nice on 8 December 2000,

-  having regard to the positions repeatedly adopted by the European Parliament on the subject of international human rights,

-  having regard to Articles 6 and 7 of the EU Treaty on respect for human rights - general principles - and Articles 12 and 13 of the EC Treaty - non-discrimination,

-  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

-  having regard to the report of the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities and the opinions of the Committee on Citizens" Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs and the Committee on Development and Cooperation (A5-0285/2001 ),

A.  whereas, according to WHO data, 130 million women in the world have suffered genital mutilation and each year 2 million women are subjected to these practices,

B.  whereas, despite the difficulty of making precise estimates owing to the lack of official data, according to the WHO, various NGOs and a number of investigations, these practices are carried out in at least 25 African countries, some Asian countries (Indonesia and Malaysia) and in the Middle East (Yemen, United Arab Emirates and Egypt); whereas it has been ascertained that in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe (according to some sources, the number of victims stands at around 60 000 and 20 000 women are at risk) female genital mutilation is also carried out in immigrant communities of these countries,

C.  whereas approximately half of the 25-30 African countries practising FGM have adopted various laws which totally or partially condemn the practice, but which are not enforced,

D.  whereas the genital mutilation of women takes various forms, ranging from clitoridectomy (partial or total removal of the clitoris) and excision (removal of the clitoris and the labia minora), which account for approximately 85% of the total, to its most extreme form, namely infibulation (total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora as well as the internal surface of the labia majora and stitching up of the vulva, leaving only a narrow vaginal opening),

E.  whereas female genital mutilation causes irreparable damage to the health of women and children subjected to it, and can even lead to death; the use of rudimentary instruments and the absence of antiseptic precautions have further harmful effects so that sexual intercourse and childbirth may become painful, the organs are irreparably damaged or and there may be complications such as haemorrhaging, shock, infection, transmission of the AIDS virus, tetanus, benign tumours and serious complications affecting pregnancy and childbirth,

F.  whereas any form of female genital mutilation, of whatever degree, is an act of violence against women, which constitutes a violation of their fundamental rights, particularly the right to personal integrity and physical and mental health, and of their sexual and reproductive rights; whereas such violations can under no circumstances be justified by respect for cultural traditions of various kinds or initiation ceremonies,

G.  whereas the universal and indivisible nature of human rights, recognised and affirmed in all the international treaties on the subject and, in particular, the rights of women, are under attack from radical cultural relativism which, in its most extreme form, considers culture as the only source of moral legitimacy; thus, the rights of women and girls are threatened in the name of culture, traditional practices, customs, or even religious extremism, most of which grant women a social position and status inferior to that of men,

H.  whereas sexual mutilation imposed on young girls calls for the most emphatic condemnation and constitutes an obvious violation of international and national legislation protecting children and their rights,

I.  whereas female genital mutilation is an assault on the rights of women and children as enshrined in several international conventions, prohibited in the criminal legislation of Member States and in breach of the principles of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

J.  whereas violence against women arises from social structures based on inequality between the sexes and imbalanced relationships of power, domination and control in which social and family pressure is the source of the violation of a fundamental right, namely respect for personal integrity,

K.  whereas FGM adds to discrimination already suffered by women and girls in the communities where it is practised,

L.  stressing the crucial role of education and information in discouraging the practice, and particularly recognising the importance of convincing people that they can give up a specific practice without giving up, as they see it, meaningful aspects of their own cultures,

M.  whereas Article 2(f) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women calls on the States Parties to take all appropriate measures to modify or abolish existing laws, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women,

N.  whereas according to Article 5(a) of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women "States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women",

O.  whereas the Vienna Declaration and Action Programme adopted in June 1993 considers, for the first time, that the fundamental rights of women "are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights" and that all forms of violence, including those which are the consequence of cultural prejudice "are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person",

P.  whereas the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993 offers, for the first time, the United Nations" official interpretation of gender-based violence: all acts of violence directed against women that result in or are likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life,

Q.  whereas Article 2 of the Declaration clearly states that violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family and, in particular, genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women,

R.  whereas Article 4 of the Declaration declares "States should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination",

S.  having regard to Article 2(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in 1989, which states that "States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's … sex"; whereas Article 24(3) stipulates "States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children",

T.  whereas the Programme for Action of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 includes recommendations to the States aimed at eliminating female genital mutilation and protecting women and girls from these practices,

U.  whereas the Conference on the follow-up to Cairo and in particular Article 42 of the key actions for the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development stipulates that governments should promote and protect the human rights of the girl child and young women, which include economic and social rights as well as freedom from coercion, discrimination and violence, including harmful practices and sexual exploitation; governments should review all legislation and amend and revoke that which discriminates against the girl child and young women,

V.  whereas the Beijing Declaration and Platform adopted in 1995 make strong recommendations to the Governments, calling on them to adopt and implement laws sanctioning the perpetrators of violent practices and acts of violence against women, such as genital mutilation, and to support vigorously the efforts made by non-governmental organisations and Community organisations with a view to eliminating these practices,

W.  whereas the Beijing Platform calls on the Governments to take all appropriate measures, especially in the field of education, to modify the social and cultural behaviour of men and women and to eliminate prejudice and customary practices and all practices based on the idea that one of the sexes is superior or inferior to the other and on stereotyped ideas of male and female roles,

X.  whereas the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (Cotonou Agreement) is founded on such universal principles and contains provisions against FGM (Article 9 on essential elements of the agreement, including the respect for all human rights, and Articles 25 and 31 on social development and gender issues respectively),

Y.  whereas the report adopted on 3 May 2001 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe calls for a ban on the practice of female genital mutilation and considers it as inhuman and degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights; pointing out that the protection of cultures and traditions has its limits, consisting in respect for fundamental rights and the prohibition of customs which resemble torture,

Z.  whereas in the context of a common European immigration and asylum policy, the Commission and Council should consider the aspect that those whose asylum application fails may face a threat of genital mutilation,

AA.  whereas the Member States now have a Community legal framework allowing them to adopt an effective policy to combat discrimination and put in place a common asylum policy and a new immigration policy (Article 13 and Title IV of the EC Treaty),

1.  Strongly condemns FGM as a violation of fundamental human rights;

2.  Urges that the European Union and the Member States should work together for the sake of human rights, the integrity of the person, freedom of conscience and the right to health on the harmonisation of existing legislation and, should existing legislation not prove appropriate, the drawing up of specific legislation on the subject;

3.  Opposes any medicalisation in this sphere, which would merely lead to the practice of female genital mutilation being justified and accepted on the territory of the Union;

4.  Confirms that FGM by its nature and consequences constitutes a serious problem for society as a whole; nevertheless, the measures adopted must involve communities and tally with their situation so that members of the communities or groups affected become convinced of the need to eradicate such practices;

5.  Affirms that the reasons given by many communities for maintaining traditional practices harmful to the health of women and children have no scientific or religious basis or justification;

6.  Calls on the Council, Commission and Member States to carry out an in-depth enquiry to ascertain the extent of this phenomenon in the Member States;

7.  Calls on the Commission to draw up a complete strategy in order to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation in the European Union, which should go beyond merely denouncing these acts and establish both legal and administrative and also preventive, educational and social mechanisms to enable women who are or are likely to be victims to obtain real protection;

8.  Requests that this complete strategy should be accompanied by educational programmes and the organisation of national and international publicity campaigns;

9.  Asks the Commission to carry out an awareness campaign directed at legislators/parliaments in the countries concerned with a view to maximising the impact of existing legislation and, where this does not exist, to assist in the formulation and adoption of such legislation;

10.  Calls on the European Union and the Member States to pursue, condemn and punish the carrying out of these practices, by applying an integrated strategy which takes into account the legislative, health and social dimensions and the integration of the immigrant population;

11.  Calls on the Member States, to this end, to:

   -
regard any form of female genital mutilation as a specific crime, irrespective of whether or not the woman concerned has given any form of consent, and to punish anybody who helps, encourages, advises or procures support for anybody to carry out any of these acts on the body of a woman or girl,
   -
pursue, prosecute and punish any resident who has committed the crime of female genital mutilation, even if the offence was committed outside its frontiers (extraterritoriality),
   -
approve legislative measures to allow judges or public prosecutors to adopt precautionary and preventive measures if they are aware of cases of women or girls at risk of being mutilated,
   -
adopt administrative provisions concerning health centres and the medical profession, educational centres and social workers, as well as codes of conduct, decrees and ethical codes, to ensure that health professionals, social workers, teachers and educators report cases of which they are aware or instances of people at risk who need protection and, furthermore, carry out simultaneously the task of education and awareness-raising among families. This would not constitute a violation of professional secrecy,
   -
consider that, from the point of view of legislation to protect children, the threat and/or risk of being subjected to FGM may justify intervention by the authorities,
   -
implement a preventive strategy of social action aimed at protecting minors without stigmatising immigrant communities, via public programmes and social services aimed both at preventing these practices (training, education and awareness-raising among the communities at risk and actual cases) and assisting the victims who have been subjected to them (psychological and medical support including, where possible, free medical treatment to repair the damage),
   -
disseminate accurate information which can be understood by an illiterate population, in particular at the consulates of European countries when visas are being issued; information on the reasons for the legal ban must also be communicated by the immigrant services when people arrive in the host country, so that families understand that the ban on a traditional act is in no way to be seen as cultural aggression, but as legal protection for women and girls; families should be informed of the consequences under criminal law, which may entail imprisonment, if mutilation is ascertained,
   -
draw up guidelines for health professionals, teachers and social workers aimed at informing and educating parents, in a respectful manner and with the assistance of interpreters if necessary, about the enormous risks of FGM and the fact that such practices are considered as a crime in the countries of the European Union,
   -
organise sex education courses for schools and the relevant groups, in order to inform them of the consequences of FGM,
   -
cooperate with and fund the activities of the networks and NGOs which are working to educate, raise awareness and mediate in the sphere of FGM, in close contact with families and communities;

12.  Calls on the Council, after consulting the European Parliament, to adopt measures to combat this phenomenon in accordance with Article 13 of the EC Treaty, in the context of discrimination based on sex and violence against women and young girls;

13.  Requests that the measures taken should be aimed at supporting and rehabilitating the women who are victims of violence, by providing them with specialised assistance, and requests that the judiciary and the police should be informed and made aware of the problems relating to violence against women;

14.  Expresses the hope that, in their work on the Community immigration and asylum policy provided for under Title IV of the Amsterdam Treaty, the Commission and the Council will, together with the Member States, take measures as regards the issuing of residence permits and protection for the victims of this practice and will recognise the right to asylum of women and girls at risk of being subjected to FGM;

15.  Calls on the Council, Commission and Member States to take all necessary steps to ensure that the topic "access to asylum procedures for women at risk of female genital mutilation" is included as a priority item on the agenda for the UN General Assembly in 2002;

16.  Appreciates the important contributions made by many international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs), research institutions, the European Network for the Prevention of FGM in Europe and committed individuals who, thanks to financing from United Nations agencies and the DAPHNE programme, etc., are carrying out various projects to raise awareness and prevent and eliminate FGM. There is no doubt that networking among NGOs and community-based organisations (CBOs) at national, regional and international level is fundamental to success in eradicating female genital mutilation and in the exchange of information and experience, as well as for joint efforts;

17.  Requests that female genital mutilation should be fully integrated in the list of serious violations of fundamental rights in the Union's development policy, in view of the adoption of Council Regulation (EC) No 2836/98 of 22 December 1998 in response to the Final Declaration of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 and its Platform for Action. Prevention of FGM must become a priority in the cooperation programmes for sexual and reproductive health and rights;

18.  Calls on the Commission and Council to take full account of a strategy against FGM in the Country Strategy Papers drawn up for cooperation with third countries;

19.  Calls on the Commission and Council to raise the question of a strategy against FGM in their discussions with the ACP countries concerned on their development cooperation programmes (National Indicative Programmes) under the Cotonou Agreement;

20.  Calls on the countries where FGM exists, and particularly on the ACP countries concerned under the Cotonou Agreement, to urgently adopt laws, if not already existent, which condemn the practice and, equally, to approve legislation and procedures ensuring their enforcement;

21.  Recalls Articles 9, 25 and 31 of the Cotonou Agreement and calls on the Commission and Council to step up their efforts to implement programmes that address FGM;

22.  Recommends that the currently dispersed budgetary resources devoted to FGM in third countries be consolidated under a special budget line, or as a clearly identifiable and separate part of an existing line, and that a minimum annual provision of EUR 10 million be agreed, starting with the 2002 budget;

23.  Believes that, in the context of the human rights provisions of the EU's development programmes, FGM constitutes such a grave assault on the rights of women that the Commission should be prepared to invoke these provisions, should the governments concerned not be willing to include the fight against FGM as a sector of cooperation;

24.  Calls for promotion of foreign aid to those countries which have adopted legislative and administrative measures prohibiting and punishing the practice of FGM and to promote, in places where mutilation is habitual, educational, social and health programmes in order to prevent and combat this practice; urges the governments concerned to prohibit female genital mutilation and calls on the Commission to cooperate closely with those NGOs, local initiatives and religious leaders working to eradicate such practices;

25.  Emphasises that medium- and long-term change must come from within the countries concerned and that there is a crucial complementary role to be played by international development assistance such as the development programmes of the EC;

26.  Calls on the Council, Commission and Member States to use the human rights clause to make combating female genital mutilation a priority issue in relations with non-Member States, particularly with those States which have preferential relations with the EU under the Cotonou Agreement, and to put pressure on them to adopt the necessary legislative, administrative, judicial and preventive measures to put an end to these practices;

27.  Insists that the European Union should make its voice heard within the United Nations, to ensure that the many countries which have expressed reservations regarding the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to the effect that they would comply with the obligations deriving therefrom provided that they do not clash with certain customs, practices or national laws, withdraw those reservations, given that they are totally incompatible with the spirit and purpose of the Convention, and are therefore unacceptable;

28.  Calls on the European Union and hence all the institutions and Member States vigorously and firmly to uphold European values based on human rights, the rule of law and democracy; no cultural or religious practice can be allowed to oppose these principles which underlie our democracy;

29.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments of the Member States, and to the governments of the ACP countries.

(1) OJ C 166, 3.7.1995, p. 92.
(2) OJ C 67, 1.3.2001, p. 289.
(3) OJ C 59, 23.2.2001, p. 258.
(4) OJ C 115, 14.4.1997, p. 172.
(5) OJ C 304, 6.10.1997, p. 55.
(6) OJ C 219, 30.7.1999, p. 505.
(7) OJ C 223, 8.8.2001, p. 149.
(8) OJ L 56, 26.2.2001, p. 1008.
(9) International Centre for Reproductive Health (Ghent).
(10) Council of Europe: Female Sexual Mutilation, Doc. 9076 of 3.5.2001.

Last updated: 15 May 2004Legal notice