Global Resources

Prohibition of female genital mutilation (FGM): international, regional and African countries

Publisher: The African Child Policy Forum
Publication Date: Dec 2013
Which African nations have prohibited female genital mutilation (FGM), and which international laws protect women and girls from this harmful practice? This publication contains a compilation of the international and regional instruments prohibiting FGM, and also specifies the laws in African countries in relation to the practice, indicating the legal status of FGM in each nation. Translations into English are provided for documents originally available in French, Portuguese and Spanish.
  • The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) obligates States Parties to take all appropriate measures to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices that endanger the health or life of the child, as well as customs and practices that are discriminatory to the child on the grounds of sex or other status.
  • The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003) states that States Parties shall prohibit, condemn and take measures to eliminate all forms of harmful practices which negatively affect the human rights of women, including FGM, as well as the mediatisation and para-medicalisation of FGM.
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) calls on State Parties to take all effective and appropriate measures to abolish traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children; the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment 13 (2011) specifies that FGM is considered a harmful practice.
  • UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) General Recommendation No. 14: Female Circumcision (1990) makes a number of recommendations to States Parties after noting with grave concern the continuing cultural, traditional and economic pressures that help perpetuate harmful practices such as female circumcision.
Countries that have prohibited FGM include Cote d’Ivoire, which adopted the law on female genital mutilation in 1998. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sexual mutilation of a child is criminalised, punishable by two to five years of penal servitude and a fine. When the mutilation results in the death of the child, the perpetrator is punishable by ten to twenty years of penal servitude. The table indicates that Liberia has not prohibited FGM; however, The Child Act, 2011 protects children from being subject, "any unnecessary or uncultured practice that may inflict physical, psychological or emotional pain to the child or otherwise violate or endanger her or his bodily integrity, life, health, dignity…" raising the question of the meaning of 'culture' in this context. The sources of information regarding these national laws include the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), International Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Harvard School of Public Health.