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FGM and Criminal Law

A number of court cases have brought attention to the practice of FGM in Europe.

For example in France, over 30 cases have been brought to the Assize Court in France, involving 120 children and 99 parents. Prison sentences for the parents and traditional excisors have been pronounced.

An illustrative case in France, which attained extensive media coverage in Europe, is the case of an excisor who appeared in the Assize Court in 1999, together with 25 parents. This case resulted in penalties for the excisor and the parents and compensation for the 48 child victims.

In 2004, five new cases were tried leading to penalties for the parents who had sent their daughters abroad to be mutilated.

In February 2009, the first court case in Denmark resulted in a two-year sentence for the mother, for allowing her daughters to be subjected to the practice during a stay in Sudan. The daughters were taken to a clinic by a sister of the mother.

An increasing number of countries in Europe have adopted specific criminal law provisions to prohibit FGM including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Ireland is currently considering introducing specific legislation to ban FGM based on the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. In other countries FGM is liable under general criminal law.

However, specific criminal laws do not necessarily result in more prosecutions. Studies show that an effective implementation of criminal laws is hindered by problems in detection and reporting of cases and lack of sufficient evidence to take a case to court, which prevents effective protection of girls at risk.

To make legislation effective, individuals and agencies that are able to detect cases, such as health professionals, teachers, police and social workers should be informed and trained to be able to identify girls at risk or performed cases of FGM, to provide appropriate protection mechanisms and to prevent future parents from subjecting their daughters to this practice.

While legislation is important to protect women and girls from this harmful practice, strong preventative measures are also essential. It is imperative to recognise the social pressure to conform to tradition that often lies at the core of this practice. Community based interventions can be effective in changing attitudes as they are based on direct collaborations with affected communities.

 

WHAT CAN THE EU DO?

The END FGM European Campaign urges the European Commission, the Council and EU Member States:

  • to address FGM in all new legislative and policy proposals on violence against women and children.

 

The campaign urges the European Commission:

  • to address FGM in the Roadmap on equality between women and men and in the Strategy on Children’s Rights, as a violation of women’s and children’s rights
  • to continue making Daphne funding available for projects aiming to combat FGM in Europe and to disseminate lessons learned to relevant authorities in Member States
  • to include concrete measures and monitoring benchmarks addressing FGM in the Stockholm Action Plan as this harmful practice relates to several dimensions of justice and home affairs cooperation in the EU, including asylum, judiciary and police cooperation
  • to include in coming meeting agendas of the European Forum on the Rights of the Child the issue of FGM and the role European Institutions can play in combating the practice within the EU as well as worldwide

 

Urges the EU institutions to encourage Europol:

  • to, in accordance with the 2009 European Parliament resolution on FGM, “coordinate a meeting of European police forces with a view to intensifying the measures to combat FGM, tackling the issues related to the low reporting rate and the difficulty of finding evidence and testimonies, and taking effective steps to prosecute offenders”

 

Urges the EU institutions to encourage Eurojust:

  • to host meetings to facilitate information exchange  between competent authorities in Member States on best practices with a view to promoting knowledge and expertise in relation to FGM cases, to promote cooperation, and to promote harmonisation and/or development of common standards in relation to FGM related judicial cases.
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