Skip to main content

Ending Harmful Practices

The term 'harmful practices' covers forms of violence or ritual discrimination, primarily committed against girls and women, that have become culturally normalized. They are violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) happen across cultures, religions, and countries. They are violations of human rights and fundamental freedom and they include:

  • female genital mutilation
  • child, early and forced marriage
  • bride kidnapping
  • female infanticide
  • breast ironing
  • forced feeding
  • stoning
  • polygamy
  • virginity testing

UN Sustainable Development Goal 5.3 requires all countries to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation by 2030. Yet child marriage and FGM continue to happen across all continents, except Antarctica, with governments failing to fulfill their obligations to protect girls and women. 

Some people defend harmful practices by saying that they are based on culture, religion, tradition. However, we believe the right to culture and freedom of religion can not limit the fundamental right to equality and non-discrimination.

We are working toward a world where women and girls are protected from harmful practices by the law and are surrounded by social attitudes and behaviors that enforce women’s equality. We push for states to be accountable in line with their international obligations, and ensure they enact and effectively implement laws that prohibit harmful practices.

Equality Now’s work to end harmful practices at a glance

Protecting anti-FGM laws in Kenya. In March 2021, the High Court in Kenya upheld and validated the constitutionality of the Prohibition of the Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2011. As the first interested party, Equality Now convened and coordinated all the interested parties, both state and non-state, in the case in support of the law. Upholding and implementing the anti-FGM law ensures that women and girls at risk of this human rights violation have legal protection.

Calling for a global response to ending female genital mutilation. In March 2020, in collaboration with the U.S. End FGM/C Network and the End FGM European Network we released a global report FGM/C: A Call for a Global Response which shone a spotlight on the presence of FGM in over 90 countries around the world.

Ending harmful practices across the United States. We are part of coalitions working to fully ban child marriage and FGM in more US states. Currently, only seven states have banned child marriage and 39 states have passed anti-FGM laws.

Our work

Since 1995, Equality Now has been at the forefront of efforts to end FGM and child marriage, working toward a world where women and girls are protected from harmful practices by the law and are surrounded by social attitudes and behaviors that enforce women’s equality.

Through a combination of advocacy reporting, strategic litigation, and partnership-building, Equality Now pressures governments to end this harmful practice and address the gender inequalities that drive it, creating a safer, healthier world for girls.

Learn more

Key resources

India – UPR Joint Submission 2022

18 July 2022

This submission outlines the gaps in protection of the rights of women and girls in India from the harmful practice of FGM/C,…

FGM: A Global Picture

01 November 2021

We are aware of at least 92 countries* across the globe where there is currently available evidence of women and girls living…

Effective Reporting on FGM: Toolkits for Journalists

27 September 2022

As a journalist, the words you write have the power to change the hearts and minds of millions. It’s a serious responsibili…

     Explore the Full Resource Library     


Hear from some of the incredible survivors and activists committed to raising their voices to end harmful practices around the world.

Women’s Rights & Climate Change: Laila Amili – Morocco

At the United Nations 2022 Climate Change Conference in Egypt, there are mounting calls for women to be guaranteed a principal role in setting the agenda and decision-making. One such woman attending COP27 is ...


Saza – Singapore

FGM/C is documented amongst the Malay community in Singapore, where it is known as ‘sunat’. The Malay community makes up 15% of the total population in Singapore. There are no prevalence estimates available. It was at my niece’s second birthday party when my ...


Rena – Indonesia

Rena Herdiyani is the vice-chairperson of Kalyanamitra, a women’s rights organization in Indonesia that has been doing advocacy on FGM since 2011, including policy advocacy, public awareness-raising, and discussion at the community level.  FGM happens in regions ...


Habiba – Oman

Habiba al Hinai is an Omani women’s rights activist, and Founder and Executive Director of the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR). She is based in Germany. I was approached by some people in Germany from Stop FGM Middle East who wanted ...



None of us can afford to sit back and wait for equality to arrive – we need to act now. Only by working together will we achieve the legal and systemic change needed to address violence and discrimination against women and girls.