137th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly
Mister President, colleagues,
The recently celebrated national Day of the Girl Child on 11 October reminds us of the needs and challenges girls face in promoting their empowerment and fulfilling their human rights.
Unfortunately, the rights of millions of girls are still violated in too many regions in the world.
The awful practices of female genital mutilations and child early and forced marriages continue and in some countries they are even on the rise and spreading to countries and communities that have never known these practices before, including in Europe.
Let me draw your attention on a situation which is the saddest among the saddest: among Syrian and other refugees in the region, child marriages are on the rise and now they account for 40% among Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
In the world, 39,000 child marriages take place every day. Over 140 million girls will marry between 2011 and 2020.
These awful practices take place in Europe and also in Italy, my country, as people on the move bring with themselves cultural backgrounds, traditions and social norms, which sometimes become weaker and sometimes, on the contrary, become a factor of identity.
These practises are imposed on girls and adolescents and their aftermath will affect them for their entire lives.
One million girls under 15 give birth every year, mostly in low and middle-income countries. Every year some 3 million girls aged 15 to 19 undergo unsafe abortions.
Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is among the goals of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and zero tolerance for female general mutilation and child marriage is a must for all of us.
Now let me address another topic which is linked human rights violation and gender violence: I am speaking of the rights of the LGBT community.
I am the Chairperson of the Human Rights Sub-committee of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies. This Committee is conducting a fact-finding enquiry into the protection of minority rights as a way to keep peace and security globally. Our activity includes meetings with both victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders.
Last July we heard a representative of the Russian LGBT Network who discussed the discrimination and persecution faced by the LGBT community in the Russian Federation, with particular focus on the current events in the Chechen Republic, which as a federal State of Russia, shares with the latter its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
In Russia, discrimination, or forms of persecution, of the LGBT community consist in fines and social isolation (I am referring to the law banning homosexual propaganda addressed to the under-age). This is a clear expression of homophobic culture.
When this is played out in a context of violent repression towards any form of deviation from the dominant class and mentality, persecution can have extreme and devastating consequences.
During the hearing in Rome, the representative of the Russian LGBT Network provided us with direct and indirect accounts, citing sources which I can provide.
The Committee was informed that at least six illegal detention centres are (or were) operating in the Chechen Republic, where at least 100 people presumed to be gay were illegally held and tortured.
At least six people died as a consequence of persecution by Chechen authorities, but a journalist told Huffington Post Italy that the number of victims may be as high as 50.
The list can go on but what worries me is that this Russian LGBT network representative pointed with alarm to calls for “cleansing” Chechnya of sexual minorities, which bears an echo of Nazi horrors.
We cannot fail to respond to discrimination and persecution based on sexual orientation,
Our commitment to defend the rights of the LGBT community in the Chechen Republic leads me to take this opportunity to speak up. Statements of principle are not enough: they must be followed up by action.
I am convinced that this message of humanity will touch the bottom of the heart of the Russian soul, a soul which we could perceive during the field visit of the advisory group to the St. Petersburg Center for AIDS and Infectious Diseases. The Centre is doing a superb job and nobody should be denied access to it for fear of b