Efua Dorkenoo, OBE

Advocacy Director-FGM Programme

Equality Now







Chairperson, Distinguished Speakers and Colleagues, on behalf of Equality Now, let me first thank WUNRN for inviting Equality Now to participate in this High Level Panel on Female Genital Mutilation.


Equality Now’s focus is the implementation of legal and policy measures to prevent girls from undergoing FGM.


Although FGM is prohibited by criminal law in many States, it continues to be practised in many African countries, Asia and the Middle East and amongst immigrant communities in western countries.Despite the increase in efforts to bring FGM to an end the prevalence rates remain high and is still over ninety percent in Somalia (98.7%), Egypt (95.8%), Djibouti (93.1%), Guinea (95.6%), Sierra Leone (94%) and North Sudan (90%). 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM annually in Africa.


To highlight a few challenges which are obstacles to ending FGM:


1.    Increased medicalisation of FGM

According to the WHO, there has been a dramatic increase in the proportion of FGM operations carried out by trained health-care personnel. Today, it is estimated that 94% of women in Egypt arrange for their daughters to undergo this “medicalised” form of FGM, 76% in Yemen, 65% in Mauritania, 48% in Côte d’Ivoire, and 46% in Kenya. The Ministry of Health of Indonesia has produced guidelines to promote the so called “lesser forms” of FGM. Whilst this approach claims to reduce some of the health consequences of the procedure, it serves instead to obscure the fact that FGM is a human rights violation. In addition, legitimising any form of FGM hinders the development of long-term solutions for ending the practice altogether, rather entrenching it through official sanction.

2.    Identified power groups resisting change but with key influence over FGM practising populations. 


In Sierra Leone and Liberia Women’s Secret Societies continue to forcibly mutilate girls and women with impunity and generally wield strong coercive power in the community. NGOs and human rights activists have achieved very little to weaken this stranglehold because of lack of support from government, mainly due to political reasons. So the problem continues unabated.


Amongst Muslim population groups the resistors to change are powerful conservative religious leaders. They are the force behind FGM in countries such as Mali and Guinea as well as amongst Somali populations. The Somali Puntland government is about to sign into law legislation which allows “sunna” FGM. This codification of FGM within the law could make it practically impossible to stop FGM amongst Somali population groups within and even outside Somalia, signalling as it does a sanction for the continued abuse of young girls. In Egypt, women’s rights, including the gains made on FGM, are in danger of been pulled back by Islamist groups now in power.

3.     Selling their daughters for cows!

Each year thousands of girls are mutilated en masse and openly in a number of FGM practising communities e.g. in Tanzania, Kenya[1][1] and in Uganda. The main underlying factor fuelling FGM is the bride price (mostly cows) which fathers receive when girls are married off. Whilst some girls fleeing FGM can seek temporary shelter and support from local churches, NGOs and human rights groups, unfortunately when these brave girls return home, many of them are then mutilated. Government authorities have traditionally stood by while this happens, despite legislation making FGM and sex discrimination an offence.


These challenges could be tackled with sufficient political will to implement policies and enforce legislation to protect girls and women against FGM. For example, a recent WHO study[2][2] that examined current practices and beliefs in ten countries in West Africa showed that in Burkina Faso, which has taken serious steps to implement its law against FGM and to protect girls from undergoing the practice, there had been a dramatic reduction in FGM prevalence from women (74%) to their daughters (25%); only 14.2% of the women surveyed in that country said they believe FGM should continue. Burkina Faso takes  a comprehensive, integrated, coordinated multi-sectoral approaches often involving multiple stakeholders that  include women and girls,  women’s organisations, religious and community leaders, youth, men and boys, law enforcement personnel, as well as legal, health and education professionals.



Equality Now calls on all governments to honour their international human rights obligations by implementing legislation, policies and programmes to end FGM. We welcome the principled commitment shown by many against the practice – now we call on you to put those words into action and stop FGM once and for all.


Thank you.




For more information contact:


Equality Now New York: info@equalitynow.org


Equality Now Africa Regional Office: Equalitynownairobi@equalitynow.org


Equality Now London Office: ukinfo@equalitynow.org


[1][1] Kenyan authorities seems to be doing better now in protecting girls fleeing FGM.

[2][2] Heather L Sipsma et al. “Female genital cutting current practices and beliefs in western Africa”, Bulletin World Health Organisation 2012; 90:120 - `27F”. doi: 10.2471/BLT.11.090886