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HRC 50 Resolution on the Elimination of FGM – A Timely and Critical Focus on Cross-Border Practices

Flags of various countries and the United Nations flag

The Resolution on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was adopted by consensus at the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council on July 8, 2022. The resolution focused on the theme of cross-border FGM and transnational protection, which remains a critical challenge in efforts to eliminate FGM.  

Resolutions adopted by international bodies like the Human Rights Council or the UN General Assembly draw the attention of governments to the action necessary to address important human rights issues, and can be a driver for legislative and policy change at the national level. 

Here are a few key points from the resolution:

A recognition that FGM persists globally

The HRC resolution recognizes that despite increased efforts at national, regional, and international levels, “the harmful practice of female genital mutilation persists in all parts of a globalized and more interconnected world.” 

This recognition is crucial to efforts to end the practice, as there are still insufficient attention, resources, and efforts being taken to address FGM in countries where it was not traditionally known to be practiced and where is no large-scale data available on the prevalence of the practice, including in a number of countries in Asia and the Middle East.

To learn more about the prevalence of FGM around the world, and the action needed to end this harmful practice, see our 2020 report.

Collaborative measures needed

The resolution calls upon States to take “comprehensive, multisectoral and international and regional cooperation measures”. It states that these efforts need to be made in partnership with cross-border and other affected communities to prevent and eliminate cross-border and transnational female genital mutilation. These measures need to include strong regional and national coordination mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the enforcement of laws in relation to cross-border and transnational FGM, measures that address the root causes of gender inequality themselves, and the collection of robust data regarding cross-border FGM. 

Read more about the use of the multi-sectoral approach to ending FGM

Legislation to address cross-border FGM

The resolution urges States to adopt and enforce regional and national legislation prohibiting FGM in accordance with their obligations under applicable international human rights law. Crucially, anti-FGM laws must incorporate specific provisions that allow for the possibility to prosecute national citizens and residents for facilitating cross-border female genital mutilation, including the act of taking a woman or girl to another country in order to have FGM performed on her.

This is a significant point as many countries which have anti-FGM laws often do not have specific clauses on cross-border FGM. For instance, presently, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, and Uganda are the only countries in Africa that criminalize and punish cross-border FGM.

A disappointing backslide

However, this resolution differed from past resolutions of the Human Rights Council with respect to the deletion of previously agreed language on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and the need for a gender-responsive approach to prevent and eliminate FGM. Language relating to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – whose ground-breaking outcome documents are yet to be implemented globally – has also been deleted. Several States, including Mexico, the UK, the US, and Luxembourg, criticized the deletion of this language from the resolution and some even withdrew co-sponsorship of the resolution. Meanwhile, civil society organizations globally continue to work to hold governments accountable for upholding the progressive pledges made at ICPD and the Beijing World Conference on Women. 

We continue to call upon all 92 countries where FGM is known to take place to take immediate action to prevent and eliminate FGM. As noted by the Human Rights Council resolution, a global response and accelerated efforts are needed to end FGM by 2030.