Eradicating female genital mutilation

24.08.2018 - Article

Around 140 million women and girls around the world are victims of genital mutilation. This traditional practice violates elementary human rights. Many women suffer life-long health problems and many girls die as a result of complications.

Young girls may end up undergoing female mutilation
Young girls may end up undergoing female mutilation© BMZ/Ann Werin/IRIN

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is practised in 28 countries in Africa and in a few Arab and Asian countries. It is also common among African immigrant communities in other countries. African activists, non-governmental organisations and international organisations have been fighting for years to put an end to genital mutilation. This is an issue on which the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is not prepared to compromise either; it supports initiatives at national and international level to end female genital mutilation.

The goal has not yet been achieved but initial successes can be seen. They are evidence that our work is worthwhile. Numerous African states have now banned female genital mutilation by law, the incidence of FGM is falling slowly, and the number of people opposing the practice is rising dramatically.

Commitment of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

The BMZ promotes a holistic approach so that account can be taken of the diverse factors that influence this practice. Education, awareness-raising and dialogue are combined with efforts to boost the effectiveness of state and private sector organisations, as well as with policy-advisory services at national and international level.

The following are examples of successful German development cooperation:

  • Germany and other donors are supporting the implementation of an anti-FGM Action Plan in Burkina Faso that was elaborated by the government of Burkina Faso.
  • A German good governance programme backed the declaration by Islamic clerics of a fatwa against FGM in early 2010. This legal ruling clearly defines genital mutilation as a harmful practice and prohibits it according to Islamic legal understanding. Experience in other countries has shown that official doctrines issued by Islamic scholars have a very positive impact on the fight against genital mutilation.
  • German development cooperation brought together women and men of various ages in Mali to take part in dialogues based on trust in the context of promoting basic education (known as “generation dialogues”). The results of an external evaluation conducted in 2009 showed, among other things, that 94 percent of those interviewed who had taken part in these dialogues stated that they did not want their daughters to be subjected to FGM in future. In communities in which no dialogue had taken place, the figure was only 17 percent.


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