Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Wednesday, 13 June 2012 19:59 UK

MEPs demand action against female genital mutilation

MEPs have condemned the "barbaric" practice of female genital mutilation, branding it a "crude expression of gender inequality", during a debate in the European Parliament on 13 June 2012.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves cutting out or operating on the genitalia of girls in order to conform to cultural or religious traditions or beliefs.

More than 120 million women around the world are thought to have undergone FGM.

MEPs across the political spectrum expressed horror at the practice.

Portuguese Social-Democrat MEP Ana Gomes said it was a form of violence against women and called for EU funding to help raise awareness of and stamp out the practice.

Meanwhile, Spanish liberal Izaskun Bilbao Barandica believed education was crucial in the fight against FGM.

British Conservative Marina Yannakoudakis told MEPs how the number of reported cases of FGM in her London constituency was on the rise - and that some operations had taken place in the capital.

FGM is illegal in the UK. It is known to be carried out in more than 28 countries - mainly in western and southern Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa such as Egypt and Somalia.

British Labour MEP Michael Cashman said it was a problem not just confined to Africa, with an estimated 500,000 circumcised women living in Europe.

Italian centre-right MEP Barbara Matera highlighted the irreversible mental and physical consequences for women who have undergone FGM, such as the risk of HIV or problems with future pregnancies.

The EU's health commissioner, John Dalli, said FGM was "an extreme and unacceptable practice" and that all steps must be taken to eradicate it.

The following day, MEPs overwhelmingly supported the parliament's resolution condemning the practice of female genital mutilation.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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