Law and FGM

FGM is illegal in most countries

Key Findings

Laws alone will not eradicate FGM, but they have a critical role to play in supporting the campaign to end FGM internationally.  

International Law

There are many International Laws and Treaties that are relevant to the practice of FGM

National Laws

22 out of 28 practising African countries have national laws in place banning FGM

Community Laws

Some communities believe FGM is justified under local customary and religious laws.

Law Enforcement

Evidence suggests that anti-FGM laws are rarely enforced and there is an absence of prosecutions across Africa and worldwide

The implementation gap

While some form of legislation against FGM exists in most of the 28 African countries of focus, there are serious challenges to implementation and enforcement of those laws. Some of these challenges are systemic; for example, there are often few police or other government officials in remote rural areas, where FGM is most prevalent, and those who are in these areas may have limited knowledge or understanding of the law. There are also cultural challenges and conflicts of interest where police and local political and community leaders continue to support the practice (for reasons of ‘tradition’, status and/or financial gain).

Ultimately, while governments are the decision-makers and can lead the way by introducing appropriate policies and legislation, they must be backed up by detailed and appropriate strategies that ensure full implementation and enforcement of the law. A tripartite approach is needed: consultation and engagement by all relevant government authorities (including the police and judiciary) with civil society and the media to ensure that the message that FGM is both harmful and illegal reaches all practising communities.

Research and Resources