Government Of Mali Must Pass Strong Law Against FGM

Equality Now And Inter-African Committee On Traditional Practices Affecting The Health Of Women And Children Convenes Regional Meeting Of Parliamentarians And Religious Leaders In Mali To Call For Ban On Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

10 September 2010

Contact: Kadidia Sidibe, Grace Uwizeye , Mali Cell:+22366783378

Bamako, Mali – International human rights organization Equality Now and Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC) will convene a regional meeting of parliamentarians and religious leaders to develop strategies for passage of a strong law against FGM in Mali. The meeting scheduled to be held on 14 September, 2010 in Bamako, will be followed by a press conference on 15 September 2010 at 09.30 am at Azalai Hotel Nord Sud. After sharing information and exchanging best practices parliamentarians will visit the Minister of Gender to advocate for the immediate passage of a law.

A staggering 92% of women and girls in Mali have been subjected to FGM, yet the country does not have a law against the practice. Instead the government of Mali has worked to end FGM mainly through its National Action Plan, a coordinated effort between the Ministries of Women, Health and various NGOs. The focus of efforts has been to change the culture surrounding FGM by raising awareness of community leaders, circumcisers, parents and girls in practicing communities. The Plan from 1998-2005 aimed to reduce FGM prevalence rates from 97% to 40%. The current National Action Plan (2008-2012) intends to reduce the prevalence rate to 65% and adopt national legislation against FGM.

Efforts by Malian organizations to pass a national law were disrupted by religious leaders in 2002 and the government has since been reluctant to push the issue forward. The upcoming meeting is therefore a much-needed opportunity for parliamentarians and religious leaders from Mali to meet with parliamentarians from several countries that have banned FGM including Burkina Faso, Cote d’ Ivoire, Niger, Senegal, and Togo. Discussions will highlight in particular the passage and implementation of anti-FGM laws and the role of religious leaders in ending FGM in these countries.

The lack of a law against FGM in Mali is now beginning to undermine anti-FGM efforts in neighboring countries. Mali has become a hub for cross-border FGM with girls and circumcisers being brought in from surrounding countries that have banned the practice like Burkina Faso, Guinea and Senegal. “We hope the insight of parliamentarians from countries where anti-FGM laws are being implemented will help the Malian government understand why it is crucial for the country to pass a law prohibiting FGM,” says Faiza Jama Mohamed, Equality Now’s Nairobi Office Director.

In 2005 Mali ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which explicitly requires State Parties to prohibit FGM through legislative measures. Mali has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which also mandate governments to protect the rights of girls, including bodily integrity. ‘If the health and well-being of millions of girls subjected to FGM in Mali is a priority for the government it must ensure the passage of a law banning FGM without delay’ says Dr Morissanda Kouyate, IAC’s Director of Operation.