12 April 2021

Understanding the Legal Landscape of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Africa

Blog by Sean Callaghan for the FGM/C Research Initiative 

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is a harmful practice that affects millions of girls and women worldwide. In Africa, where FGM/C is most prevalent, understanding the legal framework surrounding this practice is crucial in combating its prevalence and protecting the rights of individuals. A comprehensive report titled "The Law and FGM" provides valuable insights into the legal aspects of FGM in 28 African countries, shedding light on the progress made and the challenges that still exist.

The report, prepared in collaboration with TrustLaw, a pro bono legal service by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, offers a detailed analysis of the laws and regulations related to FGM/C in the studied countries. It highlights the various aspects of FGM/C covered by the law, including the criminalisation of the practice, penalties associated with it, and the relevant government authorities responsible for enforcement.

Through the dedicated efforts of over 125 lawyers from around the world, this report delves into the legal landscape of FGM/C, aiming to provide a comprehensive resource for activists, policymakers, and organisations working towards eradicating this harmful practice. The research methodology involved a thorough examination of international treaties, national laws, case law reviews, and contributions from local activists and civil society organisations to understand the practical application of the law and identify areas for improvement.

One of the key findings of the report is the varying degrees of progress in addressing FGM/C across different African countries. While some nations have enacted comprehensive laws criminalising FGM/C and imposing strict penalties, others still lack adequate legal frameworks to combat this practice effectively. The report emphasizes the importance of strengthening legal provisions and enforcement mechanisms to protect individuals at risk of FGM and hold perpetrators accountable.

Furthermore, the report underscores the critical role of grassroots organisations, NGOs, and legal advocates in driving legal reform and raising awareness about the harmful effects of FGM/C. By providing free legal assistance and fostering connections between legal and development communities, TrustLaw and its partners have made significant strides in supporting initiatives that empower women, protect human rights, and promote social change.

The report also outlines the key features of a model law aimed at ending FGM/C, which include:
- Providing a clear definition of FGM/C
- Criminalizing the performance of FGM/C
- Criminalizing procuring, arranging, and/or assisting in acts of FGM/C
- Criminalizing the failure to report incidents of FGM/C
- Criminalizing the participation of medical professionals in acts of FGM/C
- Criminalizing the practice of cross-border FGM/C

It is essential to note that the information presented in the report is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The disclaimer included in the report emphasises the need for individuals and organisations to seek legal counsel qualified in the relevant jurisdiction when dealing with specific circumstances related to FGM/C laws.

By highlighting the progress, challenges, and opportunities for legal reform, this report aims to empower stakeholders to advocate for stronger legal protections, support survivors of FGM/C, and work towards the eradication of this harmful practice.

To access the full report and delve deeper into the legal aspects of FGM/C in African countries, please visit: The Law and FGM Report.

Together, through informed advocacy, legal reform, and collective action, we can strive towards a future where every individual is free from the threat of FGM/C and empowered to exercise their rights and choices.