International and European conventions
Cyprus has ratified a number of conventions on FGM, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2010/C 83/02) (EIGE, 2013). Cyprus has also signed but not yet ratified the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).
FGM has been a specific criminal offence in Cyprus since 2003, although there have been no prosecutions to date.
Article 233A, Section 1, of the Cypriot Penal Code prohibits FGM, defined as “any form of cutting or mutilation of the major or minor lips of the vagina or of the clitoris of the genitalia”.
The provisions of Article 233A apply to the perpetrator of FGM, as well as to those who are an accessory to the act, an adviser to the perpetrator or who induce another to commit FGM. The consent of a woman subjected to FGM is not a defence or mitigating factor in the prosecution of the crime, the maximum penalty for which is imprisonment for five years (Cypriot Criminal Code, CAP 154, Amendment 4, 2011, Provision 233A).
However, Cyprus differs from every other European country surveyed, in that section 2 of the law specifies:
“The actions described in section (1) are not considered illegal if carried out by a doctor where there is need, either for the physical health of the woman on whom it is carried out, or if carried out on a woman in any stage of labour, or after that in relation to labour. The above actions may only be carried out following consultation with two other doctors.”
CHILD PROTECTION LAW
The general legislative framework approaches FGM in children as a violation of a girl’s human rights, or child abuse. Nevertheless, FGM is not specifically referred to under Child Protection Law (1957).
New legislation regarding children’s rights is currently being developed, with a view to updating current law. In the interim, the Commissioner for the Protection of Children’s Rights has stated the right of the Commissioner’s Office to intervene to protect a child and represent their interests, in keeping with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989. In addition, the Children’s Law, Cap. 352, prohibits cruelty to children under the age of 16. Article 54 defines cruelty as the “wilful assault, ill-treatment, neglect, abandonment [or] exposure likely to cause the child unnecessary suffering or injury to health, including injury to or loss of sight, hearing, limb or organ” (Children’s Law, Cap. 352).
A woman or girl who has been subjected to or fears being subjected to FGM on return to her country of origin may apply for refugee status in Cyprus, according to Provision 3(c) of the Asylum Law (L. 6(l)/2000, amended 2009). The law does not specifically refer to FGM, however a woman or girl can claim asylum on the grounds that she belongs to a particular social group that practises FGM. Cypriot asylum legislation is currently being amended in accordance with European directives on international protection, in particular on qualification (Directive 2004/83/EC) and reception conditions (Council Directive 2003/9/EC and Directive 2013/33/EU).
PROFESSIONAL SECRECY LAW
Cyprus’s general law on professional secrecy and disclosure makes no specific reference to reporting cases of actual or planned cases of FGM. Article 135 of the Penal Code states that all public officers, including medical practitioners, police officers and legal officers are bound not to disclose state or official information. In extreme circumstances, where both advisable and necessary, the disclosure of information is allowed, when authorized. Both Article 135 of the Penal Code and Article 69A of the Public Service Law stipulate that officials are obliged to report any abuse by other public officers.
While there is no evidence that FGM occurs in Cyprus, victims of the practice are resident on the island. However, current law is focused more on the criminalization of the act rather than the protection of victims and at-risk minors.