Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation; Too little action taken against FGM

Encouraging steps in Iraq – By HIVOS and WADI – The Hague, Suleimania 5 February, The 6th of February was introduced by the United Nations as The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Since then public awareness worldwide has grown. In a time when women’s rights and violence against women are discussed more than ever before, especially in the Middle East, Hivos and WADI – frontrunners in the battle against FGM – call upon the Secretary General and the General Assembly of the United Nations to step up efforts to end this practice.


Currently one hundred and forty million girls and women are estimated to have undergone an FGM procedure. This is a very large and deplorable number, albeit an estimation mainly focusing on Africa. Considering growing evidence which proves that FGM is not only an ‘African problem’ but also widespread in various parts of Asia including the Middle East, a much higher number may be closer to the truth.

Time to act NOW

On the international level the passing of a resolution calling for a ban on FGM by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2012 was a milestone. Although the resolution is not legally binding, it will enhance the moral and political incentive for governments to act on FGM. And it will encourage activists worldwide to speak out against a fatal ‘tradition’.

It is time to act now. And to ask a question: In 2003 the United Nations proclaimed the imperative of eliminating female genital mutilation. However, so far no action has been taken by the UN bodies to stop FGM in the Middle East. Why, for instance, have they not become active in Iraq, yet? What is done in Yemen where FGM levels in some regions are known to reach 50 percent?


Consequentially, WADI and Hivos call upon the UN, specifically on the Secretary General, to step up efforts to end this irreparable, irreversible abuse that affects up to one hundred and forty women and girls alive today.

Furthermore we call upon the UN to conduct research into the scale of FGM in the Middle East, and to collect reliable data in Middle Eastern countries where just anecdotal, but undeniable evidence for the harmful practice can be found.

Let us break the silence and search for the truth.


A promising example of what is possible to achieve in the fight against FGM in a remarkably short period of time can be witnessed in Iraq. Nineteen months ago, on June 20, 2011, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq adopted a comprehensive law against many forms of gender-related violence including FGM. It was a unique step in the whole region – and it was brought on the agenda by committed activists and NGOs. Wadi, the organization at the heart of the combat against FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been teaching and campaigning against FGM for nine years now.

Although it was an enormous success, the adoption of the law was merely a first step. The next challenge is to ensure that the law will be implemented properly. And since FGM does not stop at the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan, Wadi and Hivos in coordination with Pana Center in Kirkuk rally for support on an initiative to promote a law against FGM for the whole of Iraq. On February 6th a draft law for a ban of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Iraq will be submitted to the Iraqi parliament.

In Kirkuk, a town of mixed ethnic population in the north of central Iraq Pana and Wadi have been cooperating on a comprehensive field research which revealed that 38 percent of the 1212 females interviewed had undergone female circumcision. The research proved that FGM is existing among Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shi’is alike. Since Kirkuk’s population mix may be regarded as a blueprint of the whole country the results bear strong evidence for FGM to be practiced all over Iraq.

See also the background article STOP FGM – Also in the Middle East

Note for the press: For more information and suggestions for sources and speakers on the 6th of February, please contact the sender; see contact details below.

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WADI e.V. | Herbornerstr. 62   60439 Frankfurt| Germany – T +49-69-57002440 | |  – Wadi office in Iraq: 00964-7701-588173