Global Resources

The impact of emergency situations on female genital mutilation

Author: M. Ryan, A. Glennie, L. Robertson, A. Wilson
Publisher: 28 Too Many
Publication Date: Jan 2014
There has been limited research on the impact of emergency situations on female genital mutilation (FGM), despite it being widely recognised as a harmful traditional practice (HTP) that violates the human rights of girls and women. This briefing paper, produced by the non-profit organisation 28 Too Many, highlights this challenging area of emergency response. 28 Too Many has experience of working in refugee camps and fragile states in Africa and Asia, and has extensively researched FGM. This briefing paper draws on this research, together with research from the wider international non-governmental organisation (NGO) community, to firmly situate the issue of FGM in emergency situations within the wider context of violence against women and girls (VAWG); and to further collaborative, multi-sector efforts to establish effective programming that protects girls and women from FGM in complex emergencies, protracted conflicts and fragile regions.

Emergency situations particularly impact women and girls by precipitating environments in which VAWG is endemic. VAWG is increasingly reported as a large-scale, targeted and systemic strategy in conflicts. It is used as a form of torture, to inflict injury, extract information, force a population to flee, forcibly impregnate, degrade and intimidate, and as a way of punishing both women and their male relatives for actual or alleged actions of their family members. Recommendations include that anti-FGM programming should be explicitly incorporated into all areas of emergency: preparedness, response and recovery; this constitutes a holistic approach that encompasses prevention, advocacy, rehabilitation and counselling. Policymakers and those responsible for programming in emergency situations need to formulate plans to address violence against women in crisis situations which consider the needs of those who have undergone FGM or are at risk.Detailed recommendations about this approach, as well as other recommendations are also provided.

The authors conclude that British Government’s initiative, Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), launched in May 2012, is working to replace the culture of impunity for sexual violence committed in conflict with one of deterrence by increasing the number of perpetrators brought to justice, by strengthening international efforts and coordination to prevent and respond to sexual violence, and by supporting states to build their national capacity. The authors find that this initiative provides an opportunity for those working to eradicate FGM to ensure that the implications of this HTP are factored into this important work.