The Parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan – an autonomous region of Iraq- recently approved a new Family Violence Bill. Included in this bill is a new law that bans Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The bill includes several provisions criminalizing FGM, as well as outlawing forced and child marriages, child abuse, and verbal, physical and psychological abuse of women and girls.

Human Rights Watch’s 2010 report on FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan noted that “FGM poses a difficult challenge for the government and people of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is a complex issue to address, its eradication requiring strong leadership from the authorities and partnerships across the political spectrum and with religious leaders, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and communities to bring about social change. “

Female genital mutilation violates the human rights of women to life, non-discrimination, health and bodily integrity, and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The passing of the bill illustrates a government commitment to end the practice of FGM, and is seen as a victory by those who have been campaigning for years for such legislation. Making the practice illegal, however, is not sufficient, as has been observed in other countries that have made FGM illegal but continued to tolerate it with no repercussions for perpetrators.

NGOs working on the issue will now move to ensure the government ensure the correct penalties for those found guilty of violating Article 6 of the law, which penalises anyone, including medical professionals and midwives, who “instigate, assist, or carry out” the procedure. They will also lobby for the provision of social, physical and psychological support for the victims. As Nadya Khalife of Human Rights Watch notes, “By passing this law, the Kurdistan regional government has shown its resolve to end female genital mutilation and to protect the rights of women and girls. But the government needs a long-term strategy to deal with this harmful practice because criminalizing it is not enough”.

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