Summary of the discussion on FGM & Law

The discussion was launched on July 12th and ended on July 31st 2019.

Introduction to the issue

FGM is a complex issue deeply embedded in the societies where it is practiced. While criminalization of the practice is generally acknowledged as an important step in the global strategy towards abandonment of FGM, most experts would agree that anti-FGM laws alone cannot solve the problem. The absence of a decrease of prevalence of FGM in many communities where laws exist and growing critiques against the way laws are implemented raises the question: Can social change be legislated? 

In the thematic note we looked at the legal measures taken to eradicate FGM, both in high-prevalence countries and low-prevalence countries. We are launching a debate with the aim to encourage an exchange of experiences, from different countries, on how to best use the law as a tool in the anti-FGM strategy.  Furthermore, we also highlight some of the common critiques against the implementation of anti-FGM laws and we would love to hear your thoughts on this.

While criminalization of FGM is generally acknowledged as an important step in the global strategy towards abandonment of FGM, most experts would agree that anti-FGM laws alone cannot solve the problem. The absence of a decrease of prevalence of FGM in many communities where laws exist and growing critiques against the way laws are implemented raises the question: 

Can social change be legislated? 

In the thematic note we looked at the legal measures taken to eradicate FGM, both in high-prevalence countries and low-prevalence countries. We gave some concrete examples of laws in different countries and also highlighted common difficulties and critiques against the implementation of anti-FGM. 3 human rights lawyers were invited to participate in the discussion :
Fatou Janssen, Anne-Marie Middleburg and Brenda Dora

Issues raised in the thematic note

The initial questions of the debate were :

  • What has been the effect of an anti-FGM law in your country?
  • Has it been beneficial? Has the law had any negative or undesirable effects?
  • What have been the difficulties in implementing laws?
  • Do you think countries should have specific anti-FGM laws or integrate FGM under other laws (child abuse, violence against women…)
  • How do we avoid stigmatization of families and communities (in high prevalence or low prevalence settings)?
  • How should countries best deal with the issue of Consent – should FGM be illegal independently if it is practiced on a girl or on a consenting woman?

NEXT: Can social change be legislated ?

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