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Equality Now calls on Mali to take urgent action to protect girls and women from female genital mutilation

An illustration of a number of people with their hand outstretched in front of them

BAMOKO, July 6, 2020 – Equality Now welcomes the comprehensive and timely report by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) declaring Mali’s failure to criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM). 

The report also notes the resultant impunity, which denies women and girls legal protection from FGM as a violation of their fundamental rights.

We are particularly pleased that the report not only notes the failure of the Malian government to put in place a legal and policy framework against FGM in line with its regional and international obligations but also notes that Mali has not put sufficient efforts in raising awareness on the harmful effects of FGM besides failing to provide victims with remedies and appropriate compensation.  

The report was released on June 24, 2020, after the CEDAW Committee visited Mali in December 2018 to conduct a confidential inquiry into allegations by civil society organizations, including Equality Now, that women and girls in Mali continue to be subjected to FGM, and that there had been little progress in eliminating the harmful practice.

The report, further observed that Mali has not criminalized FGM even though it ratified CEDAW without reservations and is therefore obligated to end FGM by enacting the requisite and supportive national legislations. Additionally, the report found that Mali has failed to take a clear stand against FGM and had therefore been unsuccessful in addressing the social, cultural, and religious barriers that impede the elimination of the harmful practice. 

The Committee qualifies the violations undergone by women and girls in Mali subjected to FGM as grave and systematic, with at least 76.4 percent of Malian girls having been cut before their 15th birthday while 82.7 percent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to FGM causing untold physical and psychological suffering. The report similarly indicates that Mali has the highest prevalence rate of FGM among girls aged 0-14 years in West Africa. It goes further to sound the alarm on the transnational nature of the practice, noting that girls in neighboring countries, that have laws prohibiting FGM, are taken to Mali where they undergo the cut. The Committee, therefore, urges Mali to take extra measures to collaborate with other countries in the sub-region to eliminate cross border FGM.

This situation has been further aggravated by the fact that since 2012, Mali has had sporadic periods of political and civil unrest that have not only resulted in the mass displacement of people but have also exposed women and girls to unchecked sexual and gender-based violations including FGM. This notwithstanding, the Committee has underscored that Mali has an obligation to uphold and protect the rights of women and girls.

Equality Now strongly urges the government of Mali to urgently take measures to implement the recommendations put forward by the CEDAW Committee which among others include to:

  • Take immediate steps to criminalize FGM by adopting, without delay, the draft bill on the prevention and punishment of gender-based violence and the provision of assistance to victims that criminalizes female genital mutilation;
  • Enhance access to justice by building the capacity of key state actors including magistrates and criminal investigators and ensure women and girls can file complaints and report perpetrators;
  • Provide appropriate specialized care to victims of FGM and strengthen the capacity of relevant actors, such as healthcare providers, who work directly with women and girls; 
  • Enhance measures to eliminate gender stereotypes and prevent the stigmatization and discrimination of women and girls who have not undergone FGM; 
  • Increase investments towards awareness-raising campaigns against FGM targeting both rural and urban populations and embedded into the school curriculum as a way of fighting stigma and discrimination; and
  • Prioritize and strengthen sub-regional cooperation on ending FGM including through generation of data on good practices to end the practice as well as victim assistance.


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