Guiding principles for drafting legislation on Female Genital Mutilation

  • Legislation should be carefully drafted to protect actual and potential victims, many of whom are very young girls. The practice of FGM is mired in issues of gender, women’s status and women’s own self-identity. While the practice of FGM is a recognized human rights violation, not undergoing the practice can subject women to other forms of discrimination and harm. Therefore, while laws are a critical means to eliminating the practice of FGM, stopping the practice involves deeper changes to societal norms and individual beliefs.
  • Government action and legislation must take multiple forms and include various groups, including educational, legal, health services, cultural and religious leaders to effect true change and an end to the practice of FGM. “While use of legal measures needs to be carefully considered and used in conjunction with other education efforts, laws can be a useful tool for change, giving NGOs and individuals greater leverage in persuading communities to abandon the practice.” (Female Genital Mutilation: A Guide to Laws and Policies Worldwide, p.13) 
  • Once enacted, governments should pay particular attention to implementing and monitoring legislation against FGM. (See: Implementation and Monitoring Sections of this Knowledge Module).