Promising Practices: Norway’s National and International Action Plans
Norway first passed a law against FGM in 1995 and issued its first action plan against FGM in 2000. Norway’s current 2008-2011 Action Plan for Combating Female Genital Mutilation represents a government-issued national action plan and strategy. A collaborative effort between seven ministries, the Action Plan recognizes the need for a coordinated response by national, regional and local authorities, affected groups and relevant religious communities. The Action Plan creates a national advisory group to facilitate this cooperation, identifies responsibilities of respective ministries for various sections of the Action Plan, and places the responsibility for coordinating efforts to combat FGM with the Ministry of Children and Equality. The Action Plan is divided into six categories of objectives, which, in turn, delineate further steps and identify responsible ministries:
In addition to their national action plan, Norway has also had an international action plan since 2003 outlining international efforts to combat FGM both in Norway and abroad. Using human rights as the entry point, the plan focuses on three main areas of effort: 1) the prevention of FGM and the promotion of social mobilization against the practice; 2) the treatment and rehabilitation of both girls and women who have undergone FGM; and 3) competence building at all levels in the effort to combat FGM.
Promising Practice: In 2011, the Republic of Kiribati published a national Action Plan detailing the government’s dedication to ending all gender and sexual-based violence in Kiribati. The five key Strategic Areas which form the Policy’s main intervention are as follows:
Promising Practice: In 2011, the United Kingdom developed a comprehensive Action Plan – A Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls. The plan for preventing violence has four main goals, and lays out a framework for achieving each goal:
The government rightly acknowledged that one of the main difficulties in combatting violence against women and girls is the ability to enforce national legislation and action plans on the local level. To that end, they also pledged significant resources to “specialist” violence against women services.
The plan also discusses in detail the importance of first response to violence matters, provision of services to victims and the administration of justice to perpetrators. Finally, the government commits to reviewing the plan of action on a regular basis, stated in the report as six months.
Promising Practice: In 2012, the Pacific Regional Working Group on Women, Peace and Security was established to develop an action plan regarding women, peace and security. The action plan covers the nations of Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The report acknowledges the widespread gender inequality issues that Pacific nations face, including the use of bride price and the prevalence of domestic violence. It addresses the general empowerment of women, and also specifically acknowledges the disproportionate effect that violent conflict and security threats have on the lives and livelihoods of women, including the displacement from land. One of the focus areas of the action plan is: the “Protection of women’s and girls’ human rights during humanitarian crises and in transitional and post-conflict contexts.”
UN Women’s Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence Against Women (2012) recommends that national action plans should outline a comprehensive, coherent, and sustained programme of activity that builds evidence and practice over time, including the following elements:
Ratify International and Regional Human Rights Instruments
Ensure Constitutional Protections
The national strategy should also ensure that the national constitution upholds the rights of women and girls to be free from FGM. The constitution is likely the highest legal authority, and legislation and government action generally must conform to the norms and standards set forth in it. As such, a constitution should be drafted to include measures to:
Illustrative Examples of Constitutional Protections :
Ethiopia - While the Ethiopian Constitution does not explicitly refer to FGM, it establishes the supremacy of constitutional provisions and protects women and girls from “harmful customs”, including by interpretation FGM.
Article 9 Supremacy of the Constitution
(1) The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any law, customary practice or a decision of an organ of state or a public official which contravenes this Constitution shall be of no effect.
(2) All citizens, organs of state, political organizations, other associations as well as their officials have the duty to ensure observance of the Constitution and to obey it.
(3) It is prohibited to assume state power in any manner other than that provided under the Constitution.
(4) All international agreements ratified by Ethiopia are an integral part of the law of the land. (Emphasis added).
(1) Women shall, in the enjoyment of rights and protections provided for by this Constitution, have equal right with men.
(2) Women have equal rights with men in marriage as prescribed by this Constitution.
(3) The historical legacy of inequality and discrimination suffered by women in Ethiopia taken into account, women, in order to remedy this legacy, are entitled to affirmative measures. The purpose of such measures shall be to provide special attention to women so as to enable them to compete and participate on the basis of equality with men in political, social and economic life as well as in public and private institutions.
(4) The State shall enforce the right of women to eliminate the influences of harmful customs. Laws, customs and practices that oppress or cause bodily or mental harm to women are prohibited.
(5) (a) Women have the right to maternity leave with full pay. The duration of maternity leave shall be determined by law taking into account the nature of the work, the health of the mother and the well-being of the child and family.
(b) Maternity leave may, in accordance with the provisions of law, include prenatal leave with full pay.
(6) Women have the right to full consultation in the formulation of national development policies, the designing and execution of projects, and particularly in the case of projects affecting the interests of women.
(7) Women have the right to acquire, administer, control, use and transfer property. In particular, they have equal rights with men with respect to use, transfer, administration and control of land. They shall also enjoy equal treatment in the inheritance of property.
(8) Women shall have a right to equality in employment, promotion, pay, and the transfer of pension entitlements.
(9) To prevent harm arising from pregnancy and childbirth and in order to safeguard their health, women have the right of access to family planning education, information and capacity. (Emphasis added.)
Ghana - Constitution of Ghana – Similarly, FGM is considered a harmful practice prohibited under the Constitution, which is explicitly given supremacy over other formal or informal laws.
Chapter 1, Paragraph 1(2)- The Constitution shall be the supreme law of Ghana and any other law found to be inconsistent with any provision of this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
Chapter 5, Paragraph 26 –
(1) Every person is entitled to enjoy, practise, profess, maintain and promote any culture, language, tradition or religion subject to the provisions of this Constitution.
(2) All customary practices which dehumanise or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person are prohibited.
Chapter 6, Paragraph 39 -
(1) Subject to clause (2) of this article, the State shall take steps to encourage the integration of appropriate customary values into the fabric of national life through formal and informal education and the conscious introduction of cultural dimensions to relevant aspects of national planning.
(2) The State shall ensure that appropriate customary and cultural values are adapted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of the society as a whole; and in particular that traditional practices which are injurious to the health and well-being of the person of the person are abolished.
(3) The State shall foster the development of Ghanaian languages and pride in Ghanaian culture.
(4) The State shall endeavour to preserve and protect places of historical interest and artifacts. (Emphasis added.)