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 Data briefs: Progress and disparity

Battles won, but FGM war still rages

Thousands of residents of Kouroussa in eastern Guinea last December witnessed a dozen or so excisers turn in their knives and reject the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). In Senegal,148 villages have issued public declarations that they will end the procedure. These are significant victories for grass-roots organizations, NGOs and international agencies working to end the painful practice.

In Africa, efforts to eliminate FGM range from laws criminalizing the procedure to education and outreach programmes. Nine countries have banned the procedure; prosecutions have occurred in three; and three countries have proposed laws against FGM. Twenty countries conduct or support education and outreach programmes. Penalties for those convicted vary from monetary fines to lifelong incarceration.


The fight continues

against FGM*
(year enacted)
African countries Industrialized countries
Burkina Faso (1996) Australia (state laws,1994-97)
Central African Rep. (1966) Canada (1997)
Côte d'Ivoire (1998) New Zealand (1995)
Djibouti (1994) Norway (1995)
Ghana (1994) Sweden (1982,1998)
Guinea (1965) United Kingdom (1985)
Senegal (1999) United States (federal law, 1996;
Tanzania (1998) state laws, 1994-98)
Togo (1998)


Egypt (Ministerial decree, 1996)

Nigeria (Edo state only, 1999)

Prosecutions in
FGM cases
Burkina Faso France

Proposed laws
against FGM
Benin Belgium

Education and outreach
programme by or
funded by government**
Benin Ghana Australia
Burkina Faso Guinea Belgium
Cameroon Kenya Canada
Central African Rep. Mali Denmark
Côte d'Ivoire Niger France
Djibouti Senegal Netherlands
Egypt Sudan New Zealand
Eritrea Tanzania Norway
Ethiopia Togo Sweden
Gambia Uganda United Kingdom
United States

  *Female genital mutilation.
**According to latest information available to the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP).

Source: CRLP, March 2000.

Legislation specifically prohibiting FGM has also been passed in seven industrialized countries that have significant populations from countries where it is practised. France has relied on existing legislation banning violent acts resulting in mutilation to prosecute those who perform FGM or parents who approve the practice for their daughters. Belgium has proposed laws against the procedure, 11 industrialized countries have supported education and outreach programmes and 2 have issued statements condemning FGM.

WHO estimates that 130 million women and girls ranging in age from infants to mature adults have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or complete removal of female genitals. FGM is practised in nearly 30 African countries and among a few minority groups in Asia. In Africa, the prevalence rate ranges from around 5% in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda to 98% in Djibouti and Somalia. About 75% of all cases are found in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.

Though perceived as a ritual that upholds the value of chastity and improves a girl’s prospects for marriage, FGM violates the human rights of girls and women because it involves the removal of healthy sexual organs without medical necessity and has detrimental – sometimes dire or even fatal – long-term physical effects and very serious psychological consequences. The procedure also breaches the human right to health and bodily integrity.

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