FGM is internationally recognised as a violation of human rights and constitutes an extreme form of violence against women. 2 There is a worldwide effort to eliminate the practice which is supported by many international and regional treaties as well as consensus documents.
In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a joint statement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) against the practice of FGM. 2 A new statement, with wider United Nations support, emerged in 2008 highlighting relevant data and research to illustrate further the damaging consequences this practice has. 19
The united nation human rights treaty monitoring bodies:
- The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
- The Committee on the Rights of the Child
- The Human Rights Committee
All the committees condemn the practice and have formed international treaties. The measures in place by these committees have ensured criminalisation of FGM. 2
In 1993 the Vienna Declaration and the Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights expanded the international human rights agenda to include female genital mutilation
Protection of women:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (2001) 27
The right to participate in individual culture and freedom of religion is protected by international law, however this might be subject to limitations necessary to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. Therefore culture is not justification for FGM.
Protection of children:
The Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989) 28
Protects against all forms of mental and physical violence and freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Requires States to take effective and appropriate measures to abolish traditional practices which are detrimental to the health of children.
One of the guiding principles of the covenant is to do what is best for the child. FGM may be considered by the parents as in their child’s best interest, however the convention protects the child from any violation of her fundamental human rights.
The convention also refers to the ability of the child to make decisions for her wellbeing as she grows older. This is not the case for FGM, as even when the child seemingly appears to be undergoing the procedure voluntarily, the amount of social and cultural pressure is considered coercion. 2