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Female genital mutilation: table of contents
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International texts which can inspire national policy and law

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

  • Article 2 - States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake: (...) (f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.
  • Article 5 - States Parties shall take all appropriate measures: (a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.
Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Article 19 - 1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
  • Article 24 - 3. States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.
  • Article 37 - States Parties shall ensure that: a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age.
WHO Framework for Action
  • Adopt a clear national policy for the abolition of FGM including, where appropriate, the enactment of legislation prohibiting it.
  • Establish inter-agency teams incorporating members from relevant government ministries, professionals and non-governmental organisations to coordinate and follow-up action for the elimination of FGM.
  • Support research into all aspects of FGM, including the incidence, prevalence, main reasons why FGM continues to be practised, and health consequences as well as operations research in order to support the design of appropriate interventions for eliminating it.
  • Organize strong community outreach and family life information and education programmes involving village and religious leaders that addresses the main reasons sustaining the continuation of the practice. Experience shows that where leadership is enlightened and committed, information and education activities are more successful.
  • Emphasize the importance of sustainability and integrate action to eliminate FGM into existing health education, child protection and community development efforts.
  • Use consistent messages and all available channels to communicate information to all sectors of the public. Mass media, popular music, drama and crafts, group sessions as well as one-to-one counselling, have been successfully used to target women and men, old and young, community elders and family members.
  • Prohibit the practice of FGM by health professionals in any setting, including hospitals and other health establishments, and provide professional guidance and training for health professionals for its elimination.
  • Ensure that there is appropriate rehabilitation and treatment for women and girls who have suffered problems with FGM. Include counselling so that women and adolescent girls have the opportunity to express their fears and concerns about their sexuality.
  • Support and encourage non governmental organizations, particularly women’s groups, education and advocacy groups. An initial group can serve as an important catalyst to start open discussion of FGM where formally it was considered a taboo.
  • Target traditional healers and birth attendants who practice FGM for information and retraining, otherwise efforts for the elimination of FGM will be undermined by indifference or opposition.
  • Avoid intervention strategies which lead to the creation of a cultural vacuum. Where appropriate, encourage alternative rites of passage for young girls, which involves gift-giving and celebration and help promote positive female traditional values, without causing physical and psychological damage to girls.
  • Target young people and couples, in particular, and provide information holding unmutilated girls and women in high esteem, providing the necessary support to enable them resist pressures to expose their daughters to FGM. Generally, young people are in the vanguard in creating new social norms but, at the same time, there is a need for sensitivity when working with young women who have already undergone FGM.
  • Enlist the participation of men so that as women’s attitudes begin to change they find support among brothers, fathers, friends and partners.