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Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation – Too little action taken against FGM

6.2.2013. Press Release – The Hague and Suleimania,

Currently one hundred and forty million girls and women are estimated to have undergone a female genital mutilation (FGM) procedure. On the 6th of February, which was introduced by the United Nations as The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, Hivos and Wadi – frontrunners in the battle against FGM – call upon the Secretary General and the General Assembly of the United Nations to step up efforts to end this practice. We do so at a time when women’s rights and violence against women are discussed more than ever before, especially in the Middle East.

One hundred and forty million is a very large and deplorable number, albeit an estimatie mainly focusing on Africa. However, growing evidence provided by the field work of Wadi proves that FGM is not only an ‘African problem’ but also widespread in various parts of Asia, including the Middle East, so a much higher number may be closer to the truth.

Time to act NOW

On the international level, the passing of a resolution calling for a ban on FGM by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2012 was a milestone. Although the resolution is not legally binding, it will enhance the moral and political incentive for governments to act on FGM. And it will encourage activists worldwide to speak out against a deadly ‘tradition’.

Therefore, it is time to act now. In 2003, the United Nations proclaimed the imperative of eliminating female genital mutilation. However, no action has been taken to date by the UN bodies to stop FGM in the Middle East. Why, for instance, have they not yet become active in Iraq? What is being done about FGM in Yemen, where instances in some regions are known to reach 50 percent?

For this reason WADI and Hivos are calling upon the UN, specifically on the Secretary General, to step up efforts to end this irreparable and irreversible abuse that currently affects up to one hundred and forty million women and girls globally.

Furthermore, we call upon the UN to conduct research into the scale of FGM in the Middle East and to collect reliable data in Middle Eastern countries where undeniable evidence for the harmful practice can be found.

Let us break the silence and search for the truth.


A promising example of what is possible to achieve in the fight against FGM in a remarkably short period of time can be witnessed in Iraq. Nineteen months ago, on June 20, 2011, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq adopted a comprehensive law against many forms of gender-related violence, including FGM. It was a unique step in the whole region – and it was put on the agenda by committed activists and NGOs. Wadi, the organisation at the heart of the cfight against FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been teaching and campaigning against FGM for nine years now.

Although it was an enormous success, the adoption of the law was merely a first step. The next challenge is to ensure that the law will be implemented properly. And since FGM does not stop at the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan, Wadi and Hivos – in coordination with Pana Center in Kirkuk – are rallying for support on an initiative to pass a law against FGM for the whole of Iraq. On 6 February 2013, a draft law for a ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) in Iraq will be submitted to the Iraqi parliament.

In Kirkuk, a town of mixed ethnic population in the north of central Iraq, Pana and Wadi have been cooperating on comprehensive field research that revealed that 38 percent of the 1212 females interviewed had undergone female circumcision. The research proved that FGM exists among Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shi’is alike. Since Kirkuk’s population mix may be regarded as a blueprint for the whole country, the results are strong evidence that FGM is being practised all over Iraq.