Germany: Lawmakers plan new law and tough sentences for FGM
Elsewhere in Europe:
* Austria: Proposal for more severe punishment for religious crimes
* France: Minister proposes immigrant contract should include burkas, FGM
The upper house of parliament has announced plans to impose strict punishment for genital mutilation of women. The Bundesrat also approved a bill to improve pensions of Stasi victims in the former East Germany.
Members of the Bundesrat wants tough jail sentences for individuals found guilty of female genital mutilation.
The upper house has decided that the practice should constitute a specific legal crime under German law.
Under current legislation, genital mutilation is merely classed as aggravated assault with a maximum prison sentence of six months. The Bundesrat now wants to raise that to a minimum of two years.
Thousands of women in Germany, most of them immigrants, have suffered genital mutilation, which is still an active ritual in some parts of Africa and, to a lesser extent, Asia and Latin America.
High numbers of victims meant that Germany had to take action said the justice minister for the state of Hesse, Joerg-Uwe Hahn.
"The victims suffer all their lives from the physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation," Hahn said.
The women's rights organization Terres des Femmes says some 20,000 cases of genital mutilation are known in Europe, with between 4,000 and 5,000 of these in Germany.
If written into law, the rules would also allow German prosecutors to punish genital mutilation abroad where the victim is a resident in Germany.
"The respect for foreign culture cannot mean that we here in Germany will allow physical and emotional injury to go unpunished," Hein said.
The Bundesrat has also repeated its commitment to make the arranging of forced marriages a criminal offense. The Bundestag has failed to make a decision on the issue in the past.