Female genital mutilation/cutting in Africa: Legal and educational deterrence

Congratulations to Satang Nabaneh of the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights, at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Adamson S. Muula, of the Africa Center of Excellence in Public Health and Herbal Medicine (ACEPHEM), Department of Public Health, College of Medicine, University of Malawi in Blantyre, whose article, recently published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, suggests that female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM) can be progressively deterred in African countries, by legal and educational means, where there is a will to apply them:

Satang Nabaneh and Adamson S. Muula,Female genital mutilation/cutting in Africa: A complex legal and ethical landscape,”  InternationalJournal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2019; 145: 253–257,  PDF at Wiley Online. Submitted text at SSRN.

Abstract:  While international and regional human rights instruments have recognized FGM/C as one of the most prevalent forms of violence against women and girls, in many African states female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C) is a deeply entrenched cultural practice. There is a consensus against FGM, as evidenced by its criminalization in several African countries. The mere fact that the practice continues despite legislative measures to protect women and girls against FGM raises the question whether we can legislate change. The present article summarizes the trends and effectiveness of FGM criminalization in Africa including prohibition on medicalization of FGM. Against the backdrop of emerging debate on medicalization of FGM as a harm reduction strategy, the article also examines its complex legal and ethical implications. The article argues that while criminalization may not be the best means of stopping FGM, it creates an enabling environment to facilitate the overall strategy of African governments to eradicate the practice.

Key words: Female genital mutilation; female genital cutting; human rights; medicalization; alternative rites of passage; medical professionals; criminalization

Published article:
“Female genital mutilation/cutting in Africa: A complex legal and ethical landscape,”
(online for 12 months): PDF at Wiley Online.   Submitted typescript.


“Circumcision, Female,” by Mahmoud F. Fathalla, in:  Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics, ed. Henk ten Have  (Switzerland: Springer International, 2016) Article onlineEncyclopedia of Global Bioethics.

Female Genital Cutting (Mutilation/ Circumcision): Ethical and Legal Dimensions,” by  R. J. Cook,  B.M. Dickens, and M.F. Fathalla (2002) 79 International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics : 281-287. Abstract and article.  

—-Turkish translation:  Kadın Sünneti (Sakatlama/Sünnet): Etik ve Hukuki Boyutlar,” trans. Mustafa Erçakıca, Beykent Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi Dergisi, Volume II, No: 4, December 2016, p. 111-121.  Turkish translation  online.

“Female Genital Cutting (Circumcision/Mutilation):  Case study from Reproductive Health and Human Rights: Integrating Medicine, Ethics and Law (Oxford University Press, 2003):  scanned chapter online

Ethical and Legal Issues in Reproductive Health“: 90+ concise articles are online here.
Compiled by: the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca.   See Program website for our PublicationsInformation resources, and Reprohealthlaw Commentaries Series.
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