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Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) is forbidden in international law. Taking into account “The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence” or also known as Istanbul Convention, article 38 defines and criminalises FMG, intended as:
“a) excising, infibulating or performing any other mutilation to the whole or any part of a woman’s labia majora, labia minora or clitoris;
b) coercing or procuring a woman to undergo any of the acts listed in point (a);
c) inciting, coercing or procuring a girl to undergo any of the acts listed in point (a).”
Maputo Protocol, The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, came into force in 2005 and at article 5 prohibits “harmful practices which negatively affect the human rights of women”. Its definition implies States’ responsibility in raising awareness, discouraging the practice and taking all necessary legislative measures to outlaw all forms of female genital mutilation. The article comprises also the protection of women at risk, who, according to World Health Organization, are estimated to be more than 3 million.
At the United Nations level, the most recent action on the policy area dates back to 2018. The resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council recognized the practice as torture or ill treatment and highlights its equivalence as human rights violence such as the important role played by the States. Indeed the aim is to put an end to the phenomenon by 2030.
Sudan’s outlawing of FGM was enthusiastically greeted by UN’s Children Fund, UNICEF, and now offenders can possibly be imprisoned for three years and fined. More than 80% of women in Sudan aged between 14 and 49 have endured this harmful practice and its consequence, since has been proved that there are not beneficial results related to health.
The practice assumes different meanings depending on where it is performed, but it is basically, not denying its complexity, a cultural and social practice. This achievement should be celebrated. Nonetheless we should not forget the (at least) 27 countries, in the regions of Africa, Asia and Middle East, which still practice female genital mutilation.
- Will the government be able to implement the law and put it into effect also in rural areas?
- Which assistance will be offered to families in order to discourage a social and cultural practice?
World Health Organization, Female Genital Mutilation
UN Human Rights Council, Resolution “Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation”
BBC, Sudan Criminalizes Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)