8 January 2013

What was your New Year's resolution? We have much to be grateful for in 2012 and are looking forward to even more in 2013.

2012 has been a busy and productive year with regard to the movement towards ending FGM. The UN annual report released on 6th of February demonstrated that the cultural trend toward FGM is in fact decreasing.The report stated that since 2011 around 2,000 communities in Africa have abandoned FGM, while Kenya (through the passing of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2011 and several Sudanese states have criminalized the act. In addition to this it was announced in August that the new constitution of Somalia prohibits FGM, demonstrating a renewed commitment to ending the practice entirely. A National Action Plan has been instigated by the Senegalese government with the aim to eliminate FGM by 2015 and in October 2012 8 out of 14 districts in Sierra Leone signed a Memorandum of Understanding- which declares the carrying out of FGM on children to be illegal.

Whilst new legislation is encouraging it is important to be aware of the problems that various governments will inevitably have in enforcing these prohibitive laws.  Un-circumcised women can still face ostracisation in many communities and whilst the criminalisation of FGM is a tremendous step in the right direction, translating the theory in to action could be a long and difficult road with regard to this deeply ingrained cultural practice.

One landmark occurrence in 2012 was that of the approval of a UN resolution which called on member states to pass a global ban on FGM. The resolution had the support of various member states and was approved by the full general assembly. This is a dramatic step towards global anti FGM legislation and enforcement as well as increasing the prevalence of global education programmes.

The ninth annual International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM 2012 placed special importance on the worrying trend of the medicalisation of FGM- which both supports and legitimises the practice. An example of this is the prevalence of health care professionals carrying out FGM in Indonesia. In 2010 the Indonesian Health Ministry introduced a regulation which gives various medical professionals the authority to perform FGM; ostensibly to lower the rate of FGM related fatalities/medical trauma due to its being practiced in rural communities without anaesthetic and in unsanitary conditions. However the government has been widely criticised as this legislation in fact appears to endorse FGM and therefore cannot serve as a tool to ending the practice. At the 52nd session of CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women) in July 2012, the Indonesian government was advised once again to repeal this legislation and instead to introduce legislation which criminalised FGM, with CEDAW asking for evidence towards these steps being taken to be submitted within the next two years.

The anti FGM campaign has continued to receive good news closer to home as well. In November the UK government announced the implementation of a one year pilot of the ‘health passport’ system similar to that already in place in The Netherlands. The Statement Opposing FGM document contains within it information relating to the law which prohibits FGM as well as clearly stating the penalties which can be brough against anyone who permits or aids the carrying out of FGM. The health passport is a huge step forward in protecting at risk girls who are UK residents as well as providing their parents and guardians with a tool to protect them from FGM when they go abroad.

The movement toward protecting British girls who are at risk from FGM continued through November as director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer announced that the CPS would be taking a harder line against those who perpetrate FGM. Starmer has published an action plan which details the importance of strengthening the rates of detection, investigation and conviction. Although FGM has been illegal in the UK for 27 years, there have as yet  been no prosecutions for those who carry it out, or provide aid to those perpetrating it- compared to other European countries such as France, where prosecution/ conviction rates tend to actually reflect the scale of the problem. This new legislation means that prosecution/conviction rates should start to reflect the scale of the problem in the UK as well and also potentially increases conviction rates, adding to the message that committing FGM is simply unacceptable.

It is hoped that the steps towards the ending of FGM that have been taken around the world in 2012 mark a sincere commitment by the global community to wipe out this dangerous and unnecessary practice. Whilst, as previously mentioned, laws can be difficult to enforce, new legislation coupled with an increased spread of awareness and education are paramount in the journey towards the total elimination of FGM.

28 Too Many looks forward to continuing its vision and goals in 2013 – in particular: publishing our first 4 country research reports and presenting at the UN CSW 57 in March 2013.  Help us on our way by donating, campaigning or volunteering.