EU governments to fight violence against women

26th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

26 January 2006, BRUSSELS - Governments across the European Union aim to hammer out common legislation to fight "tradition-based" violence against women, including forced marriages, genital mutilation and so- called honour-killings, a leading EU official said Thursday.

26 January 2006

BRUSSELS - Governments across the European Union aim to hammer out common legislation to fight "tradition-based" violence against women, including forced marriages, genital mutilation and so- called honour-killings, a leading EU official said Thursday.

"We are about to set up an EU-wide network and we want common legislation in the near future," Maria Rauch-Kallat, Austrian minister for health and women's affairs, told reporters. Austria is current president of the 25-nation EU.

Violent acts based on old traditions affect women in Africa and Asia but also women from these regions living in Europe, said Rauch- Kallat who was attending a conference in Brussels on harmful traditional practices.

"Because of global migration, women worldwide fall victim to harmful traditional practices," Rauch-Kallat said.

The EU needs to start focusing on problems such as forced marriages, genital mutilation and crimes in the name of honour, she said, adding that an Austrian initiative on these questions could serve as an example for EU-wide action and legislation.

About 8,000 girls and women living in Austria are the victims of female circumcision, Rauch-Kallat said, adding that France reported 60,000 such cases, Great Britain 80,000 and Germany 30,000.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 100 million and 140 million women and girls worldwide have been mutilated. Each year, a further two million of girls are at risk, WHO says.

Although EU countries prosecute such crimes, each country applies its own national laws. As a result, prevention of such violence has been impossible so far, the minister said.

Groups in which such violence occurs observe taboos and collective silence, partly because of justified fears, Rauch-Kallat underlined, adding: "The few spectacular cases that have become known are only the tip of the iceberg."

Education and awareness-raising are the only ways to combat the problem, she said. "Women often think that what is being done to them is normal, they do not even feel that it is injustice," she said.

Somalian ex-model Waris Dirie, United States advocate for the abolishment of female circumcision, called on the EU to take immediate action. "We have heard enough words," she told the conference.

"There are so many powerful female politicians in Europe now who can show that it is time to break the silence," Dirie added.

According to Dirie's autobiography, she herself was the victim of female circumcision at the age of five.

© DPA with Expatica

Subject: German news

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