Shows Commitment to End Violence Against Women
A Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) law that bans
female genital mutilation (FGM) is a crucial step in
eradicating the practice, Human Rights Watch said on
Monday. The Family Violence Bill,
approved by the Kurdistan parliament
on June 21, 2011, includes several provisions
criminalizing the practice, recognized
internationally as a form of violence against women.
Several studies by the government and
non-governmental organizations estimate that the
prevalence of FGM among girls and women in Kurdistan
is at least 40 percent.
"By passing this law, the Kurdistan regional
government has shown its resolve to end female
genital mutilation and to protect the rights of
women and girls," said Nadya Khalife, Middle East
women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Many women and girls in Iraq's Kurdish region are
subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).
"But the government needs a long-term strategy to
deal with this harmful practice because
criminalizing it is not enough."
Family Violence Bill also criminalizes forced and
child marriages, verbal, physical, and psychological
abuse of girls and women, child abuse, and child
labor. The bill has to be ratified by the president
of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
The new law provides for establishing special courts
for family violence cases and makes it easier for
alleged victims to press charges. It also
establishes mechanisms for police and courts to
issue and enforce restraining orders to protect
victims of domestic abuse. The bill also outlines
penalties, including prison sentences, for these
Article six of the law includes four provisions
about female genital mutilation, criminalizing the
practice and penalizing anyone, including medical
professionals and midwives, who "instigate, assist,
or carry out" the procedure. Criminal penalties
include prison terms ranging from six months to
three years, in addition to fines of up to 10
million dinars ($8,500).
In June 2010, Human Rights Watch issued a report,
"They Took Me and Told Me Nothing: Female Genital
Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan," which urged the
Kurdistan Regional Government and the Kurdistan
parliament to take a series of steps to end the
practice, including enacting laws banning it.
The report noted while it was important to pass
legislation with appropriate penalties for people
who perform the procedure, the government should
also provide appropriate services for victims,
including health care and social and psychological
support. The report urged the government to work
with community midwives,www.ekurd.netwho
most often do the cutting, and to undertake public
awareness campaigns against the practice. Human
Rights Watch also called on the regional government
to develop a comprehensive legal and policy
framework with relevant ministries and civil society
organizations aimed at eradicating the practice.
Human Rights Watch's report describes the
experiences of young girls and women who undergo
genital mutilation and the terrible toll it has on
their physical and mental health. The report
includes interviews with girls and women who
referred to the practice as "sunnah," a
non-obligatory act to strengthen one's religion.
Human Rights Watch found that women are confused
about whether the practice is a religious
On July 6, 2010, The High Committee for Issuing
Fatwas at the Kurdistan Islamic Scholars Union, the
highest Muslim religious authority in Iraqi
Kurdistan on religious pronouncements and rulings,
issued a fatwa, or religious edict, shortly after
the release of Human Rights Watch's report. The
fatwa stated that female genital mutilation predates
Islam and is not required by it. The fatwa did not
explicitly ban the practice but encouraged parents
not to have the procedure performed on their
daughters because of the negative health
In 2010, the Association for Crisis Assistance and
Development Co-operation (WADI), a German-Iraqi
human rights nongovernmental organization, published
a statistical study on the prevalence of the
practice in Erbil, Sulaimaniyah, and the Germian/Kirkuk
region. It found that out of the 1,408 girls and
women age 14 and over it interviewed, 72.7 percent
had undergone the practice. For the 12 to 24 age
group, the prevalence was slightly over 40 percent.
Shortly after the Human Rights Watch report was
issued, the Kurdistan Health Ministry surveyed 5,000
women and girls and found that 41 percent had
undergone the procedure, and that the practice is
prevalent in some regions than others in Kurdistan.
The ministry found, for example, that the rate was
higher in Sulaimaniyah than in Erbil.
Female genital mutilation violates the rights of
women to life, health and bodily integrity,
non-discrimination and the right not to be subjected
to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In
addition, since the practice predominantly affects
girls under 18, it also violates children's rights
to health, life, physical integrity, and
"Once the ban is in effect, government agencies
should widely disseminate information on the new law
making sure it reaches women and girls at risk of
FGM," Khalife said. "Everyone should now know that
the mutilation of girls is prohibited."
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