Issue 5: Harmful Practices

Author: UNFPA
Publisher: UNFPA

Beijing +5

  • Para 69 (e). Develop, adopt and fully implement laws and other measures, as appropriate, such as policies and educational programmes, to eradicate harmful customary or traditional practices, including female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage and so-called honour crimes, which are violations of the human rights of women and girls and obstacles to the full enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to intensify efforts, in cooperation with local women’s groups, to raise collective and individual awareness on how these harmful traditional or customary practices violate women’s human rights;

FWCW, Beijing, 1995

  • 118. …Violence against women throughout the life cycle derives essentially from cultural patterns, in particular the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices and all acts of extremism linked to race, sex, language or religion that perpetuate the lower status accorded to women in the family, the workplace, the community and society…

Beijing +5

  • Sociocultural attitudes which are discriminatory and economic inequalities reinforce women’s subordinate place in society. This makes women and girls vulnerable to many forms of violence, such as physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation.

ICPD POA, Cairo, 1994

  • 5.5. …Measures should be adopted and enforced to eliminate child marriages and female genital mutilation…

  • 7.35. …In a number of countries, harmful practices meant to control women's sexuality have led to great suffering. Among them is the practice of female genital mutilation, which is a violation of basic rights and a major lifelong risk to women's health…

  • 7.40. Governments and communities should urgently take steps to stop the practice of female genital mutilation and protect women and girls from all such similar unnecessary and dangerous practices. Steps to eliminate the practice should include strong community outreach programmes involving village and religious leaders, education and counselling about its impact on girls' and women's health, and appropriate treatment and rehabilitation for girls and women who have suffered mutilation. Services should include counselling for women and men to discourage the practice.


  • 42. 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….

  • 48. Governments should give priority to developing programmes and policies that foster norms and attitudes of zero tolerance for harmful and discriminatory attitudes, including son preference, which can result in harmful and unethical practices such as prenatal sex selection, discrimination and violence against the girl child and all forms of violence against women, including female genital mutilation, rape, incest, trafficking, sexual violence and exploitation. This entails developing an integrated approach that addresses the need for widespread social, cultural and economic change, in addition to legal reforms….


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