LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - African countries must bolster laws banning female genital mutilation if they are serious about eradicating the traumatic ritual, campaigners said on Thursday.
World leaders have pledged to eliminate FGM, which affects an estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide. But a report launched in London by campaign group 28 Too Many says there are major gaps in legislation across countries in Africa where FGM is prevalent.
Here are some facts:
- FGM dates back over 2,000 years. It is practized across many cultures and religions.
- An estimated 55 million girls in Africa under the age of 15 have undergone FGM or are at risk.
- Somalia has the world’s highest FGM prevalence (98 percent of women have been cut), followed by Guinea, Djibouti, Mali and Sierra Leone.
- 22 of the 28 countries in Africa where FGM is endemic have legislation criminalizing FGM, although enforcement is generally weak and prosecutions rare.
- Half of all girls who have undergone FGM or are at risk live in three countries - Egypt, Ethiopia and Nigeria - all of which have laws against FGM.
- Chad, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan, which are home to 16 million girls, have no law, meaning FGM is still effectively legal.
- All these countries apart from Sierra Leone have either drafted legislation or indicated they intend to pass a law.
- Fines set out in laws vary from the equivalent of about $5 to $3,600.
- Prison sentences range from a minimum of two months to a maximum of 20 years (Cameroon). But sentences so far have been lenient and frequently suspended.
- There is an increasing trend for FGM to be carried out by health professionals rather than traditional cutters, particularly in Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria and Sudan.
- Of these countries, only Guinea and Kenya specifically criminalize medicalized FGM.
- Somalia is unusual in that its constitution prohibits FGM, but it has no law criminalizing the practice.
- It recently announced its first prosecution for FGM after a 10-year-old girl died from the procedure.
Source: The Law and FGM by 28 Too Many. The report was facilitated by TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s legal pro bono service.