Is the law the only tool to end FGM?
While ensuring that girls and women are protected from FGM by the law is key, the law alone cannot eradicate this practice. Activists, community leaders, educators, health care providers, and law and policymakers are increasingly working together to end FGM.
In countries and regions where FGM has been reduced or abandoned altogether, the decline has often resulted when the human rights of women and girls were reinforced and legally protected and a multi-sectoral strategy was used to end FGM. Such an approach fully engages families, community leaders, educators, lawmakers or enforcers, health care and social service providers to play an active role. Research shows that if practicing communities themselves decide to abandon FGM, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly. Law provides an excellent opportunity to have important dialogues within communities and serve as an effective tool for prevention (and when necessary, prosecution).
Strong laws alone cannot end FGM.
To ensure the law is implemented governments must enact a comprehensive set of measures including the provision of adequate organizational, human, technical and financial resources supported with appropriate measures and tools, such as regulations, policies, plans, and budgets.
We must address the fundamental inequality in attitudes and perceptions of the role and place of women and girls in society. To move forward in efforts to eradicate FGM, every one of us needs to commit to engaging in discussions around gender equality and discrimination at all levels, within our communities, and our families, as well as at a national and international level.
Increasing women’s access to education can help to curb the incidence of FGM, as it opens women’s and girls’ minds to considerations beyond the traditions of their communities. Women and girls with more education are also less likely to choose the practice for their daughter, in addition to being less likely to have undergone FGM themselves. Many women are not aware that many of the physical and psychological difficulties they experience are the result of FGM. The medical community can play a key role in discussing and treating the symptoms and helping mothers make a different choice for their daughters.
Coupled with greater knowledge about the damaging effects of FGM, educational initiatives, such as school-based anti-FGM campaigns, community-wide campaigns, and media campaigns utilizing theater and other entertainment sources, can lead to a greater understanding of the importance of having and enforcing laws against FGM.