GENEVA (24 June 2020) Mali’s failure to criminalise female genital mutilation (FGM), allowing the inhuman practice to continue with impunity, resulted in the violation of women’s fundamental rights, the UN women’s rights committee has found.
In a report published today, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said millions of women and girls in Mali are subjected to “grave and systematic violations of rights” through FGM, a traditional practice that involves partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
The Committee highlighted the substantial suffering inflicted on women and girls from a very young age by the practice.
“(It) has serious effects on physical and psychological health, including sexual and reproductive health, and affects the victim’s development both immediately and throughout her life,” the Committee said. The report also noted that some girls had died after the procedure.
The extensive and organized nature of the violations is also detailed. Mali has a total population of about 20 million; about half of the Malians are women. “As of 2015, 82.7 per cent of women aged from 15 to 49 years and 76.4 per cent of girls aged from 0 to 14 years had undergone female genital mutilation. The systematic nature also stems from the fact that the State party deliberately has not prohibited the practice, impeding victims’ access to justice and allowing it to continue with complete impunity,” the report said.
Mali has the highest FGM prevalence among West African countries, most of which, including Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, have adopted laws prohibiting the practice, the report noted. Research indicates significant reductions in prevalence where governments have enacted and enforced criminal sanctions against FGM.
Mali ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1985 and acceded to the Optional Protocol in 2000. The Government proposed bills to prohibit FGM and gender-based violence on several occasions between 2002 to 2017 but failed to adopt the draft bills due to opposition from religious leaders.
In its report, the Committee concludes that Mali failed to comply with its due diligence obligation to adopt and enforce a law prohibiting FGM, thereby violating the right of Malian women to live free from gender-based violence and discrimination.
The Committee has made 31 recommendations for action. These include adopting the draft bill on the prevention and punishment of gender-based violence, provision of assistance to victims, and setting up a national dialogue on FGM.
Committee members visited Mali in December 2018 to conduct a confidential inquiry into allegations by civil society organizations that women in Mali had been subjected to FGM, and that there had been little progress in eliminating it. The Committee stressed that it had received the full co-operation of the Government of Mali in all stages of the proceedings. In this regard, it remains ready to continue to work with government, religious and community leaders and other stakeholders in the implementation of the national programme to combat FGM throughout Mali.
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The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors States parties’ adherence to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which to date has 189 States parties. The Committee is made up of 23 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.
CEDAW members visited the cities of Bamako and Mopti, in Mali, from 2-13 December 2018. They held meetings with, among others, the Prime Minister, Ministers of Education, Justice, Public Health, the Human Rights Commission and United Nations representatives. They interviewed parliamentarians, civil society representatives, academics, and numerous women victims of female genital mutilation.
The Committee’s confidential inquiry took place under article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW Convention, to which Mali acceded in 2000. This gives the Committee the mandate to conduct inquiries into allegations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. In 2011, the Committee received information from several organizations alleging that the Government of Mali had committed grave and systematic violations of rights under the Convention by failing to protect girls and women from female genital mutilation (FGM). Having found the allegations reliable, the Committee designated two members to undertake the inquiry.
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