By Martin Schulz - 1st October 2012
Sexualisation increases sexism and undermines the role of women
Girls’ rights is an issue that European parliament president Martin Schulz wants to see placed higher on the agenda
The importance of girls’ rights should never be underestimated and is an issue I care passionately about. The European parliament’s own declaration on the international day of the girl recognises that across the world, research has shown that girls are more likely to suffer from malnutrition, be subject to violence or intimidation; be trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade; be forced into an early marriage; become infected with HIV or suffer life-threatening conditions from a pregnancy which was not of their choosing.
The parliament warmly welcomes the recent decision of the United Nations to create an international day of the girl child on 11 October. The day is a powerful way to highlight the particular needs and rights of girls, and to advocate greater action and investment to enable girls to reach their full potential in line with international human rights standards and obligations.
At least 500,000 women and girls in Europe are living with female genital mutilation and an estimated 180,000 girls are at risk, according to the WHO. Since female genital mutilation is mostly performed on young girls between infancy and 15 years of age, it constitutes a violation of the rights of the child. The parliament has rightly stressed that all 27 member states have committed themselves to protecting children’s rights under the UN convention on the rights of the child. We have to ensure that all relevant UN organisations and bodies incorporate the protection and promotion of the rights of girls not to be subjected to female genital mutilation into their national programmes.
As to the employment field, the EU must plan and implement measures to facilitate satisfactory education, training and studies for girls and young women, providing particular support for girls and young women with a migration background. Improving the literacy of girls must be a priority, especially in developing countries given women’s importance in educating families. Indeed, the parliament is also working in co-decision on the financing instrument for development cooperation initiatives - supporting cooperation with 47 developing countries in Latin America, Asia and central Asia, the Gulf region (Iran, Iraq and Yemen) and South Africa - and has just adopted a report which explicitly underlines the need for improving equal access and quality of education, including for vulnerable groups, women and girls, and countries furthest from achieving global targets.
The parliament is also working on a report on the phenomenon of sexualisation of girls. This is manifested in various areas: sexualisation of products for girls, such as clothes and toys, in entertainment for children and adults, such as movies, TV, internet, music and press, as well as in advertisements. Sexualisation increases sexism and undermines the role of women with an impact on the image of women in the professional world. The draft report aims to sensitise public authorities on the issue and develop concrete strategies against this phenomenon.
The draft report underlines that a series of integrated actions must be taken in order to broaden the horizons and develop the outlooks of small girls and boys in relation to their guiding values, by means of deliberate strategies to protect children from the process of sexualisation and objectification and to create new tools and spaces where young people will be able to develop and discover their sexuality at an appropriate time and in their own way.
Martin Schulz is president of the European parliament