This practical guide is adapted from a book entitled Female Genital Mutilation: A Guide to Laws and Policies Worldwide, edited by Anika Rahman of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) has received a great deal of attention in recent years at both the national and international levels. One of the most highly debated issues is the role that law should play in addressing a social practice that is strongly anchored in cultural beliefs and norms. While history tells us that law alone cannot change social behavior, the recent adoption of criminal laws prohibiting FGM in many African and Western nations has established a role for law in advancing the process of social change. Another commonly posed question is whether the language of human rights is meaningful and appropriate for the majority of women who are affected by the practice of FGM. Our position is that FGM must be acknowledged as a violation of the human rights of women and girls—it cannot be separated from deep-seated and pervasive discrimination against women.