Combating female genital mutilation

Girls at school in Bangui, Central African Republic

Female genital mutilation (FGM) violates fundamental human rights such as the right to health and the right to protection of physical integrity, and it limits girls’ and women’s opportunities to develop.

According to estimates by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), some 200 million women and girls worldwide have undergone FGM. FGM is practised in 30 countries, mostly in Africa, but also in some Arab and Asian countries. It is also practised in migrant communities around the world, including in Germany. Overall, the proportion of women and girls affected by FGM has been dropping for some time now but, depending on the country, it can still be anywhere between 1 and 98 per cent. FGM is highly entrenched in some societies and is often regarded as a social norm or even, erroneously, as a religious duty.

African activists, NGOs and international organisations have for years been campaigning for a worldwide ban on this practice.

Germany’s commitment to combating FGM

German development policy, too, staunchly supports the goal of overcoming this harmful traditional practice. To that end, educational activities, awareness raising and dialogue at local level are combined with boosting the capacities of institutions and organisations and policy advice at the national, regional and international levels.

In February 2015, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) adopted a Position Paper entitled "Female genital mutilation – The contribution made by German development cooperation towards ending this violation of the human rights of girls and women". The second Development Policy Action Plan on Gender Equality 2016–2020 (GAP II) also sets down combating female genital mutilation and the elimination of other harmful traditional practices such as child, early and forced marriage as strategic goals.

Since 1999, the BMZ has supported measures to overcome FGM in several of its partner countries.

Examples of successful work

  • Dialogue approaches offer members of a community a protected environment in which to discuss what have previously been taboo subjects, such as FGM, and to be involved in decision-making to end the practice. In 2001, for instance, the generational dialogue method was developed together with partner organisations in Guinea so that women and men of different ages could discuss this issue together. The method has since been applied successfully in several partner countries.
  • Religious and traditional authorities, teachers and medical personnel can positively influence change due to their special social status. Dialogue with Islamic leaders was promoted in Mauritania, as a result of which, in 2010, these leaders issued the first national fatwa, which clearly defines genital mutilation as a harmful practice, forbidding it under Islamic law. The fatwa was confirmed in 2011 at a conference of 18 Islamic legal scholars from West Africa, Sudan and Egypt, meaning that its impact now reaches beyond the borders of Mauritania.
  • Germany also supports an educational approach in which providing information and engaging in dialogue on FGM is incorporated into the school curriculum. In Burkina Faso, for example, schools have been including FGM modules in their curricula since 2000. The aim is for it to become a mandatory part of school curricula across the country.

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