Statement delivered by the Deputy Minister for Economic Development, Hon. Teresa Bellanova, at the Side Event on “Accelerating Efforts to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation and Child, Early, and Forced Marriage by 2030” (co-organized by Italy, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, UNICEF, UNFPA/UNWOMEN) —
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me first to thank, on behalf of the Italian Government, the co-sponsors of this event and all of you for being here today.
The adoption of resolution, “Intensify Global Efforts to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation” by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2012 was a turning point that brings us here with renewed responsibilities but also a sincere sense of pride and satisfaction.
The UN’s strong condemnation of FGM/cutting has sealed the success of a broad and intense battle, which is much more than an end in itself, along the winding road toward the affirmation of the respect of human rights, which we have come to thanks to the perseverance of the promoting Group of African Countries and to the support of non-governmental organizations and States, like Italy, that have staunchly believed in this battle.
I would also like to recall and officially acknowledge in this venue the important role throughout the years of UNICEF and UNFPA in tackling this issue.
The fight against harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage are issues to which Italy gives absolute priority.
At the international level, we have been leading with determination a constant action to eliminate these phenomena. Within the UN framework, in particular, Italy actively takes part, with a constructive and balanced approach, in the negotiations on resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council on FGM and early and forced marriage.
In 2014, Italy also signed the Carta del Summit on the rights of girls tied to the elimination of FGM and early and forced marriage, to reassert once again, the importance of education, support, social measures and services to combat these phenomena and the urgency to reduce women’s exposure to violence and abuse, enabling them to have a life based on free will.
To globally accelerate and intensify the fight for the elimination of all of these extremely harmful practices, raising awareness in both the public and private sectors, it is vital that we adopt a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach that includes all of the actors involved and takes into account the linkages between these practices, gender disparities and violence against women. We need integrated policies that promote the implementation of international commitments, following an inclusive approach that pursues change not only in regulations, but also in the needed level of awareness of society.
The fight against FGM is one of the priority areas of action for Cooperazione Italiana.
Our Country is indeed a major donor committed to combatting this phenomenon. Our efforts were accompanied by an allocation of fund of circa 25.4 million euros in the 2004-2018 period. Since 2004 Italy has funded the relevant UNICEF initiative, the first of our multilateral actions to pave the way toward the collaboration in 2008 of UNICEF and UNFPA on the joint programme, “Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change”, mainly entailing action to be conducted in 17 African countries, of which we proudly continue to be one of its top donors.
In 2017 the first two phases of the programme were concluded obtaining significant results, among which the protection of 2.3 million women and girls, who were given access to vital services of prevention, protection and treatment.
The success of these initiatives that have mobilized institutions and the civil society of African Countries, led the Cooperazione Italiana to approve last January a new contribution of 1.8 million euros for 2018 for the launch of the III Phase of the UNFPA/UNICEF (2018-2021) joint programme.
In 2014, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation funded, by way of a multi-bilateral contribution of 750.000 euros to the UNFPA project combatting forced marriage in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Mozambique. This project in turn added to the broader UNFPA-UNICEF initiative entitled, “Action for Adolescent Girls” launched in 2012, with the aim of reducing early and forced marriages in 12 target Countries. The specific aim is to protect the human rights of girls through a combination of targeted interventions that can postpone marriage and prevent early and unwanted pregnancies, besides promote women’s empowerment.
At the national level, I would lastly like to underscore that Italy has done much but must continue to work in this direction. With Law 7 of 9 January 2006, “Provisions regarding the prevention and ban on the practice of female genital mutilation”, Italy wanted to give a strong signal: prevention and prohibition are, in this order, the distinctive characteristics of these measures. The Italian government has also set aside specific resources destined to translate prevention into concrete acts so that no girl must undergo mutilations ever again.
Last December, the Italian Government adopted specific Guidelines for early detection of victims of female genital mutilation or other harmful practices. The objective of the guidelines is to provide instructions to operators of first response and accommodation centers (CPSA), of accommodation centers (CDA) and accommodation centers for asylum seekers (CARA), on how they should approach presumed victims of FGM, forced marriage or other harmful practices, and on how to promote their access to adequate and secure resources, and to international protection based on the violence suffered.
We must now intensify our efforts to eliminate the root causes of harmful practices. This will be the new challenge to face, to eliminate the practices of FGM/cutting and infibulation and early and forced marriage in Countries in which these horrible practices still continue today.