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How Kurdistan ended female genital mutilation

Gulf News 24.10.13. By Shaimaa Khalil

Toutkhal: Kurdistan is one of Iraq’s rare success stories; autonomous from Baghdad since 1991, the region has recently enjoyed an oil boom that’s fuelled foreign investment unknown elsewhere in the country.

And recently Iraqi Kurdistan has been looking closely at its human rights record. Two years ago Female Genital Mutilation was banned, as part of a wide-ranging law to improve women’s rights, and since then the rate of FGM has fallen dramatically.

But how have they achieved this? Kurdistan is very much the exception.

Many other countries in the Middle East and Africa still suffer from high rates of FGM. According to Unicef the countries where FGM is most prevalent is Somalia and Guinea, while Egypt is in the top five.

However according to Unicef the practice is ‘practically non-existent’ in the rest of Iraq. In a special report that is part of the BBC’s 100 Women Season, I found out more about the grass roots campaign that led to this practice being outlawed. I wanted to know if enough is being done to enforce the law, and end FGM in Kurdistan altogether.

One leg of my journey was to the sleepy village of Toutkhal — in a remote and mountainous area in Iraqi Kurdistan. At first glance, life seems untouched by the modern world. The small mud houses, surrounded by farm animals and people living off the land make it hard to imagine why this village would make the news.

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