Harmful practices are entrenched in issues of gender roles, women’s status and women’s own self-identity. While laws are a critical means to eliminating harmful practices, stopping harmful practices involves deeper changes to societal norms, individual beliefs, and deeply rooted issues of gender inequality. Legislation should “acknowledge[s] that all forms of violence against women, including all harmful practices, are a form of discrimination, a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, and a violation of women’s human rights. Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, p. 11) (emphasis added).
As such, Government action and legislation must take multiple forms and engage various groups, including educational, legal, health services, cultural and religious leaders to effect true change and end harmful practices. “While use of legal measures needs to be carefully considered and used in conjunction with other education efforts, laws can be a useful tool for change, giving NGOs and individuals greater leverage in persuading communities to abandon the practice.” (Female Genital Mutilation: A Guide to Laws and Policies Worldwide, p. 13)
States should act immediately to fulfill their obligation to protect girls and young women from violence in general and harmful traditional practices in particular, committed by state agents and private entities or persons, through the adoption of laws and policies. It has to put in place institutions and agencies which are competent and have the capacity to respond to the needs of children who are suffering from the effects of harmful practices as well as to prevent the further occurrence of harmful traditional practices. (See: No More Excuses, p. 28)