Sub-Regional Conference on Female Genital Mutilation, "Towards a political and religious consensus against FGM"

Final Declaration - Djibouti, 3 February 2005

At the conclusion of the Sub-Regional Conference on FGM, “ Towards a Political and Religious Consensus on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation” convened in Djibouti from 2-3 February, 2005 by the Government of Djibouti and the International Association No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), with the support of UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, WHO, the World Bank, the Italian Cooperation, CIDA-GESP, the French Cooperation, USAID, the Dutch Government, the German Cooperation, in cooperation with the National Union of Djibouti Women, the Transnational Radical Party (TRP), with the sponsorship of Djibouti Telecom, Ethiopian Airlines and RTD, and with the technical support of RAINBO, within the framework of the “STOP FGM Campaign” jointly funded by UNICEF and the Italian Cooperation, implemented in collaboration with AIDOS and TOSTAN.
We, the participants,
Noting with satisfaction that most countries of the sub-region affected by the practice of FGM participated in the Djibouti Conference at both governmental and parliamentary levels, as well as through the representatives of the Civil Society - including participants from other countries - making it a unique opportunity for dialogue and exchange of information on how best to eradicate FGM, with particular focus on the ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights to the African Charter on Peoples’ and Human Rights.
Recognising the remarkable contribution of Djibouti stakeholders in both the Conference and in the effort to eradicate FGM, as evidenced by the participation of more than 100 representatives of civil society, Government and religious organisations from all over Djibouti;
Emphasising that the Djibouti Sub-regional Conference on FGM is one of the key steps in the ongoing process to recognise FGM as a political, economic, social, cultural and human rights issue aiming at implementing the operative parts of the Cairo Declaration for the elimination of FGM, as adopted at the Cairo Conference on legal tools for the Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation held from 21-23 June 2003 and reiterated in the Nairobi Declaration adopted by the participants of the International Conference held in Nairobi from 16 to 18 September.
- Noting that African and Arab countries are at different stages in the fight against FGM and recognising, in this context, the role played by the Government of Djibouti in spearheading the process, as evidenced by the ratification of the Maputo Protocol by the Parliament on 29 January, 2005, and paying particular tribute to the contributions made by the First Lady, H.E. Kadra Mahamoud, Chairperson of the National Union of Djibouti Women and by the Prime Minister, H.E. Dileita Mohamed Dileita;
- Encouraged by the achievements of the thematic sessions, the quality of the contributions both by the speakers and the participants, as well as the valuable technical contributions by experts on issues related to FGM, all of which contributed to the success of the Conference;
- Reiterating the importance of the international Appeal “Stop FGM”, launched on 10 December 2002 and signed by African First Ladies and by a number of other international personalities, as well as the Program “Zero Tolerance to FGM” launched by the Inter-African Committee (IAC) on 6 February 2003 and later endorsed by the United Nations; calling women, citizens and public opinion to support politicians and political parties who have the abandonment of FGM in their platforms and programs;
- Thanking the organisers for taking the initiative to convene the Djibouti Sub-Regional Conference and expressing our appreciation to the First Lady H.E. Kadra Mahamoud, the Government of Djibouti and especially to the Prime Minister, the Ministers for Health, Women’s Affairs, Moslem Affaires, Justice, and to the programme for reproductive health implemented within the Ministry of Health as well as the NUDW for the warm welcome extended to the participants in the Djibouti Conference and for ensuring a conducive working environment.
- Thanking the sponsors and other donors for providing the resources necessary for the organisation and follow-up of this Sub–Regional Conference, which allowed for fruitful discussions and sharing of experiences and information in a constructive and open manner;
We, the participants, do hereby declare that:
A. In ratifying the Maputo Protocol, Djibouti - a country in which the practice of FGM is wide-spread - sets an example for the region and the whole continent of Africa. In adopting the principles of the Maputo Protocol, the Government of Djibouti commits itself to eradicating FGM thus joining other countries which have already ratified the Protocol.
B. The ratification by Djibouti also sets an important example for its immediate neighbours - which are equally affected by FGM - as well for all other African countries, to ratify the Maputo Protocol in order to expedite its entry into force as soon as possible and to intensify efforts in the fight against FGM;
C. The religious debate held during this conference has brought once again irrefutable evidences that no religious basis in the Koran - as well as in the other Revealed Religions (Christianism and Judaism) - justify the perpetuation of FGM. The presence of high level religious dignitaries from the region and theologians from the prestigious Al Ahzar University in Cairo has allowed a broad exchange of views on this issue;
D. The practice of FGM is a violation of human rights, and in particular of the rights of women and girls and an assault on their human dignity. FGM degrades the status of women and children and deprives them of their basic human rights. Efforts towards eliminating FGM should be intensified so as to emphasize the fact that FGM is both a violation of women’s human rights and a gender issue; in particular, the process of informing and educating the public on the practice of FGM should lay stress on human rights and political solutions, as medicalisation of the practice obscures the problem and prevents the development of effective and long-term solutions. Medical professionals, in particular, should reject FGM and recognise the problem as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
E. Bearing in mind the legislative function of Parliaments, the role of Governments and the specific mission of the Pan-African Parliament and other pan-African bodies, civil society, including non-governmental organisations, community based organisations, religious leaders and members of the community at large should stress the implications and benefits to be derived from the ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol, through lobbying, the provision of information, sensitisation and other similar activities.
We, the participants, do hereby recommend that:
1. All Afro-Arab States, as well as other States concerned with the practice of female genital mutilation, should implement the Cairo Declaration in an integrated manner.
2. Legislation prohibiting FGM, besides its juridical outcome, shall have moral force and an educational impact capable of acting as an effective deterrent.
To this end:
a. Member States of the African Union should ratify and implement the provisions of the Maputo Protocol on FGM through their respective domestic legislations;

b. States not members of the African Union should also enact legislation prohibiting FGM based on the principles of Article 5 of the Maputo Protocol to enhance their own domestic legislation and to support the efforts of the member states of the African Union for this aim;

c. Arab countries which are not members of the African Union should call upon the Arab League to include harmful practices in the Arab Charter for Human Rights as a regional mechanism for the protection of the human rights of women and girls.
3. Comprehensive legislation prohibiting FGM should be enacted and, where it already exists, appropriate strategies should be adopted to ensure its effective enforcement, including capacity building for all relevant players. Such strategies should be developed in consultation with the relevant stakeholders, including law enforcement officials and civil society, in order to ensure effective and consistent dissemination of information and education of the public at large. In particular, FGM practioners, including health professionals and traditional circumcisers, should be made aware that performing FGM could lead to legal and professional sanctions;
4. In implementing the relevant provisions of the Maputo Protocol, member States of the African Union and other affected countries should adopt a broad-based consultative process, involving non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations, religious leaders, members of the community and others. Where appropriate, Governments should seek technical assistance from organisations and bodies with specific expertise in incorporating international obligations into national legislation related to women’s rights, in particular the denunciation and prohibition of FGM.
The prohibition of FGM should be integrated into broader legislation addressing other issues, such as:
• gender equality;
• protection from all forms of violence against women and children;
• women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights;
• children’s rights.
5. The implementation of law should be one component of a multi-disciplinary approach to stopping the practice of FGM. For the successful abandonment of FGM, there should be a common and integrated approach to addressing FGM and to finding solutions for combating the practice and effecting long-lasting behavioural changes in society.
Campaigns aimed at informing and educating the public should be undertaken so as to involve as many people as possible and to enhance ownership of strategies and activities that seek to eradicate FGM from the African continent. In addition to the provision of information to the general public, those vulnerable groups and individuals who require particular information about FGM should be targeted, including those at risk, parents and those who practise FGM such as traditional circumcisers, traditional birth-attendances as well as health care providers.
6. As per the recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD-Cairo) held in 1994, academic institutions should be recognised for the role they play in imparting knowledge and providing expertise for the creation of a social and political environment conducive to the abandonment of FGM.
7. Girls and women who reject FGM for themselves or for their children, and religious and community leaders willing to take a firm stand against the practice of FGM, such as those who have pledged to mobilize themselves against FGM during this Conference, need to be supported and encouraged. In addition, support and encouragement should be provided for men who are willing to denounce the practice or who can be convinced to do so, in order to change the perception that the FGM would be an exclusively women’s issue.
8. Programs aimed at the rehabilitation and counselling of victims of FGM should be implemented, in particular, those related to health-care, legal services and judicial support, counselling as well as vocational training as provided for in the Maputo Protocol. In providing such services, government and civil society should work together in devising relevant strategies.
9. Governments and international players should provide political support and, where possible, financial resources, to empower NGOs as part of their efforts to eliminate FGM. Governments in particular, should consider allocating resources in their national budgets for the abandonment of FGM and working with civil society at this aim, and this in particular through information and education for the public. At this purpose, governments should ensure that national NGOs pursue their activities freely.
10. States affected by FGM should formulate national plans of action with specific objectives aimed at the elimination of the practice within a specific time-frame. Plans should be formulated and implemented through a participatory approach involving civil society. Governments should include those plans of action in their National Strategy Plans and provide adequate Budget allocations for their implementation.
11. The African Union should assign to the African Commission on the Rights of the Child and other relevant bodies the responsibility to monitor the implementation of the commitment by State Parties to eradicate FGM.
At the conclusion of the Sub-Regional Conference on FGM, convened in Djibouti from 2-3 February 2005, under the sponsorship of Ms. Kadra Mahmoud Haid, First Lady of the Republic of Djibouti, and following different scientific sessions and discussions and debate, the participants adopted the following decisions:
1) FGMs, as practised nowadays, are extremely harmful to women all their life, as decided by doctors. The Islamic Sharia prohibits any harm to the self and the others; thus FGMs, as practised nowadays, are to be prohibited legally and by Sharia.

2) The Conference recommends the Ulemas, preachers and religious as well other cultural and social figures activists to play their role in raising awareness according to the recommendations adopted by the conference.