Law & FGM

We know that 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 order to promote the exchange of practices and knowledge from different countries on how to best use the law as a tool in the anti-FGM strategy , we launched a thematic discussion on this theme on July 12, 2019.

A thematic note with the results of our desk research on the theme, a few resources and questions for this debate was drafted. The note contains informations on legal measures taken to eradicate FGM, both in high-prevalence countries and low-prevalence countries, as well as some of the common critiques against the implementation of anti-FGM laws:

This note can also be download in a PDF version here:

To support the debate, we could count on the participation of three experts of this issue:

  • Fatou Janssen, human rights lawyer working on women’s rights issues in Africa.
  • Anne-Marie Middelburg, independent consultant and human rights researcher
  • Brenda Dora, human rights lawyer with expertise in women and children’s rights

The members of the community were also invited to share their experiences with the Community of Practices:

  • 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 (living 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?

SUMMARY OF THE DISCUSSION