In Africa, many anti-FGM laws imply that if consent is given by a woman or girl, FGM is not a criminal offence (because she has “chosen” to be cut). (1, 2) On the contrary, in most European countries, as well as in Australia, it is the fact that: Whether or not a girl or woman has consented to FGM does not affect the legal status of the act. Nevertheless, in some European countries, consent may reduce the severity of the penalty. (3)
In Mali, one of the 6 African countries that currently have no law prohibiting FGM, work is being organized in order to produce a preparatory document for the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Court of Justice and to feed into a lawsuit against the State of Mali. For more information, we recommend an article from Mali 24 on “Abandoning the practice of FGM: Towards the questioning of Mali before the ECOWAS Court” from which we have taken some excerpts:
During the discussion, members questioned the relevance of considering trials and convictions as evidence of the success of a law and as a useful tool to improve the effectiveness of the law. Hannah Wettig, working for Wadi in northern Iraq, shared her observations of the discussions on FGM laws and questioned the emphasis on prosecution. She began with the example of a German law whose effectiveness cannot be questioned by the mere lack of legal action.
This video was produced by Fatou Kébé and GAMS Belgium in October 2019 as part of the CoP FGM discussion on Type IV FGM.
In November 1996, the government passed a law prohibiting and sanctioning the practice of female genital mutilation (article 380 of the Criminal Code). The Constitution of Burkina Faso (adopted in 1991) does not, however, explicitly refer to violence against women and girls, harmful practices or FGM. In 2018, the Parliament adopted a new bill, further criminalizing the constitutive acts of violence against women and girls and providing for penalties for performing FGM.
Somalia has one of the highest prevalences of FGM with 97.9% among women aged 15-49 years. “Female circumcision” is mentioned in the Somali Constitution as a “cruel and degrading customary practice”, equivalent to torture. The Constitution stipulates that “the circumcision of girls is prohibited”. However, there is no specific national law on FGM and there is no provision for punishment for a violation of the Constitution. The Somali Penal Code (Law No. 05/19623, April 1964), applicable to all courts in Somalia (and Somaliland), criminalizes “causing harm to another person resulting in physical or mental illness” (1). It was reported in 2015 that a bill criminalizing FGM throughout Somalia was being prepared, but no text has yet been introduced. There is also no legislation on the national level criminalizing and sanctioning the medicalization of FGM, a growing problem in Somalia, especially among wealthier families.
The value of debating the use of anti-FGM laws was questioned by members. Two main arguments were confronted. Firstly, one of the members pointed out that any criticisms or arguments against anti-FGM legislation could apply to any existing law in the field of child protection or human rights in general. The law paves the way for social change but does not enshrine it. It is only a necessary step towards the elimination of the practice and a change in attitudes, which must be accompanied and complemented by education and awareness campaigns in particular.
Dear partners, AIDOS is cooperating with UNFPA Egypt in the organisation of a training on « Storytelling on FGM in Egypt », with the aim of contributing to end FGM in Egypt and in diaspora communities through the use of media. The activity is part of the « Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to Tackle FGM » project, supported by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change.