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Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: From Resolutions to Concrete Action

8 February 2013

“There are practices that even our ancestors, if they could return to life, would find outdated and obsolete”, said the famous Malian writer Amadou Hampaté Bâ. Female genital mutilation (FGM) can with no doubt be included in these obsolete yet persistent customs…

Since 2003, on the 6th of February, the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is held, with the aim of raising awareness about this practice. On this occasion, WILPF was invited to a discussion panel on “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation”.

What is the current situation regarding female genital mutilation?

So far, about 140 million girls and women throughout the world have already been subjected to circumcision. This mutilation has terrible consequences on girls and women’s health; they are deeply injured, not only physically but also psychologically.

Such mutilation, considered as violation of children and women’s rights, is a social norm deeply rooted in many societies, mainly in African countries but also in other parts of the world such as the Middle East. That is why for so many years FGM was a taboo subject nobody was concerned about, but international awareness has finally been growing now, and things are starting to change.

Over the past few years, the African continent has taken different initiatives to ban FGM, but the representative of the African Union now calls for a zero tolerance policy with the aim of fully eradicating genital mutilation.

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted in December 2012 a resolution that urges countries to implement legislation explicitly banning excision and other forms of violence threatening the health of women and girls, and to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of FGM.

This UN Resolution is a significant milestone towards the ending of mutilation. Yet, as the Ambassador of Italy reminded us, this resolution is not the end of the story but the beginning of a new story. These words must now be turned into concrete actions on the ground, by raising awareness among the populations, implementing efficient legislation and supporting women and girls who have decided to disregard this harmful practice.

Though it is more than necessary to implement effective legislations banning any form of female mutilation, it appears to be insufficient to fully eradicate this phenomenon. According to the ambassador of Burkina Faso, legislative measures are a good mean to achieve significant progress, but they are not enough. Indeed, solely criminalizing FGM without raising awareness might make it be practiced more secretly, which often bears the risk of more dangerous methods… That is why such laws must be complemented by awareness-raising campaigns led by States, NGOs, hospital staff, religious authorities and media: change has to come with education, awareness-raising and advocacy.

A necessary change of mentalities

Most of the panelists such as the Egyptian ambassador deplored that FGM has been mistaken as a religious tradition, and that religious discourse normalizes this crime through the prism of religion. The African Union representative asserted that FGM dates back to very ancient times when the religions of today did not even exist yet. Therefore nobody should have the right to justify such harmful practices on behalf of any religion whatsoever.

That is why the Secretary General of the National Council for Child Welfare, from Sudan, pleaded for the intensification of advocacy efforts and awareness-raising to make people understand that female cutting is NOT a religious obligation and that not being circumcised is good.

Moreover, according to the ambassador of Burkina Faso, it is essential to keep in mind that FGM is not only a women’s business: in order to change the whole society’s view of mutilation, men should also be included in the awareness-raising process, since the social debate on FGM has to be organised at the family level. This would follow the very good example of Sudan, which, through the Saleema Campaign against mutilation, included men in a survey to encourage opening up discussions within families who still consider FGM as a religious duty.

YouTube video

Eradicating FGM throughout the world also requires an international solution, which implies interstate cooperation. Indeed, FGM has been spreading in other parts of the world, especially in Europe, owing to migratory flows. The African Union representative called for joint actions between Africa and Europe as being necessary to efficiently fight mutilation wherever it occurs. Countries like Switzerland, Portugal and the Netherlands have already taken measures to criminalize FGM, and the European Commission is strengthening its efforts to combat FGM as well.

40 countries around the world have now adopted legislation against female genital mutilation, which is great news! Yet, despite the efforts that have been made so far, there is obviously still a very long way to go… So as the African Union representative said: “the fight must go on!”

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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