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
- 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.
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.
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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.
Social change begins with legal change and people like you — raising your voice against injustice — play a vital role in our collective success.