200 million women and girls alive today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation. Even if progress has been made in terms of criminalization of this traditional practice, more still needs to be done in terms of legislation, prevention and protection of the victims.
SIEHQ attended a side-event at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council, entitled “Legal Frameworks to End Female Genital Mutilation: Closing the Implementation Gap”. Panellists included government, legal, medical and development experts.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of violence against women and a violation of their human rights. It often causes severe physical and psychological damage to women and girls, and is one of the focuses of the current 2017-2019 Biennium. The panelists provided interesting insights into ways the issue can be tackled more efficiently.
Since the 1990s, most countries have prosecuted the practice, which is a definite improvement. But parallel actions are still needed to ensure that the law is implemented. Countries have adopted different ways to ensure that the law is known, assimilated, and implemented. In Burkina Faso for example, mobile courts aim to prosecute the perpetrators of FGM while fostering dialogue in the communities. In Egypt, the “Doctors against FGM” initiative provides medical practitioners with the training and tools to deter families from going ahead with the practice.
New challenges have risen and need to be addressed. The practice is now a trans-border one. The vacation season in Europe has become an especially risky time for young girls, who may be taken back to their home country to undergo the procedure. Medicalisation –which refers to situations where only the health risks associated with FGM are addressed – is another issue that needs to be taken into account, while in some countries the practice has on the contrary become “underground” and therefore harder to fight.
Laws tackling FGM need to be more comprehensive, country-specific and include these new challenges. A UNFPA report provides a list of recommendations of effective ways to fight FGM. For example: prosecuting accomplices as well as offenders; engaging communities, medical practitioners and law-enforcement agents; and educating children on their rights. In order to prevent girls being sent abroad to get “cut” against their will, the United Kingdom has put into place a system of protection orders where the girls can get immediate protection in case of danger.
Finally, providing support to the victims of FGM is absolutely key. The UK for example provides life-long amenities for the victims, encouraging them to come forward and share their experience. Civil society organizations such as Dr. Ghada Hatem’s Maison des Femmes are also playing an essential role in providing psychosocial and medical support to survivors of FGM.
To read more about what you can do as a Soroptimist to fight this issue, click HERE.