Parliamentary Workshop on FGM Legislation and its applicability

8 - 9 October 2008, National Assembly, Djibouti


The Republic of Djibouti has, for many years, been at the forefront of the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM) with the establishment of a sustained and continued action in the context of the defence and promotion of women’s rights as a whole.

The willingness to increase the effectiveness of Government’s efforts has been reaffirmed at the highest level, since the adoption of the 1995 law explicitly banning the practice of FGM, by the declaration of His Excellency the President of the Republic on 8 March 2004. This led to Djibouti’s ratification in 2005 of the African Union’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the “Maputo Protocol”) at the Sub-Regional Conference on the eradication of FGM "Towards a Political and Religious Consensus on the Elimination of FGM ", held in Djibouti on 2 and 3 February 2005, under the auspices of the First Lady and organised by the international non-profit association No Peace Without Justice in collaboration with all the Ministers most directly involved.

The National Strategy for the total abandonment of all forms of FGM, adopted in 2006, has reaffirmed the determination and willingness to anchor the Government's action in the implementation of a legal framework that would ensure the abandonment of FGM in the broadest context of the promotion and defence of women’s rights, as envisaged in the Cairo Declaration of June 2003, which was endorsed by all countries affected by the practice of FGM. Indeed, the strategy includes a focus on legal instruments and a "legal and institutional mechanism", which was welcomed by the First Lady at the launch of the strategy.

Field experience demonstrates that the persisting difficulty in the implementation of this coherent approach aimed at ensuring the respect of specific women’s rights remains linked to the difficulty for women and girls to assert their rights. Indeed, when it comes to violations of women's rights, especially if they are minors, the possibility for recourse to justice is still quite marginal. This is especially the case with FGM as it is performed on minors, in a family context where most of the people involved are not fully aware of the serious illegality of the act that they are about to commit or allow to be performed on those under their supervision.
The National Union of Djibouti Women (UNFD) and the international association No Peace Without Justice, with the support from concerned ministries and the Presidency of the Parliament of the Republic of Djibouti, as well as all those involved in civil society and cooperation agencies, are promoting an initiative that targets the reasons for the deadlock in defending the rights of women. The initiative intends to invite parliamentarians, together with institutional actors and civil society activists, to assess the effectiveness of existing legal tools prohibiting FGM, namely Article 333 of the Penal Code, and to consider what changes may be necessary to ensure its applicability and to increase its effectiveness.

The initiative falls within the action initiated by the Ministry for the Advancement of Women: in July 2008, as part of its national strategy for the abandonment of all forms of FGM, the Ministry established a process of revision of Article 7 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to facilitate the conditions under which third parties can initiate civil action proceedings and denounce violence for which the victims themselves are not in condition to ensure recourse to justice.

This approach is particularly valuable in the fight against FGM as it is a violation that, since the law was adopted, has provided no recourse to justice; instead, the practice remains widespread. A review of Article 333 of the Penal Code would enhance the action of many organisations and individuals that, under the umbrella of the UNFD, are committed to the defence of women’s rights, and especially for the abandonment of FGM, on a daily basis.
The workshop

The workshop is being held from 8 to 9 October 2008, at the Parliament of the Republic of Djibouti. A review of all legal tools that other African countries have adopted over the years and an assessment of their effectiveness will provide an opportunity for a detailed analysis of improvements that could be made to Article 333 of the Penal Code to ensure its full applicability. Indeed, Article 333 imposes sanctions only in very general terms against the act of FGM, through the penalty of 5 years imprisonment, without defining and detailing the responsibilities and penalties of the different actors involved in its practice. The discussion, starting from the revision of Article 333, will aim to ensure consistency among all legal instruments punishing violence against women. The scope of the discussion will be to start a review, in the longer term, of the legal and procedural tools through which Djibouti’s legislators intend to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls in Djibouti.

Thanks to the contributions of the different actors involved, including the Ministry for the Advancement of Women, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the courts, police authorities and associations for the defence of women's rights, the debate will aim to build consensus on which elements of Article 333, which in its current form, explain the deadlock in its application.

The purpose of the workshop is to provide Members of Parliament of the Republic of Djibouti with an overview of the elements preventing the applicability of Article 333. The discussions aim to identify options for change that are likely to increase the applicability of the Penal Code in this regard.