Workshop on Female Genital Mutilation legislation and the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa

Khartoum, Sudan 15 - 17 December 2007

No Peace Without Justice, in cooperation with Entishar Charity Society, has organised a Workshop on FGM Legislation and the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, held in Kahrtoum, 15-17 December 2007. The workshop was organised with the support of the government of Italy, International IDEA, and in partnership with UNICEF working under the auspices of the National Center for Child Welfare and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Woman and Child Affairs.
The Workshop formed an integral part of a UNICEF project intended to develop a legal, political and social environment to promote and protect the human rights of women and girls and the abandonment of FGM.
The overall aim of the Workshop was to contribute to the process whereby initiatives proposed by the institutions can become increasingly substantive and inclusive. Supporting civil society efforts to have a voice in the development of legislation on FGM strengthens civil society as a whole and its ability to influence policy on human rights, democracy and the rule of law and will lead to better legislation explicitly targeting FGM and the human rights of women more generally.
The workshop was held in five sessions, focused on FGM legislation in Sudan and the creation of a positive political environment for the adoption of effective FGM legislation and the ratification of the AU Protocol on Rights of Women in Africa.
FGM in Sudan
In Sudan FGM practice has been institutionalized as a habit or a custom that became an integral part of the social system and therefore is still deeply rooted. The overall FGM prevalence in Sudan in estimated around 90% and FGM are usually performed on girls at an age between 5 and 9 years.
Sudan has ratified various international human rights instruments under which FGM is considered a violation: the Civil and Political Rights Covenant, the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Covenant, the Children’s Rights Convention, though has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
With respect to regional instruments, Sudan has ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Banjul Charter), though not the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child nor the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. This Protocol is a key instrument since is the only international document in which Female Genital Mutilation is referred to explicitly, in its Article 5 dealing with the elimination of harmful traditional practices; adopted in July 2003, the Protocol entered into force on 25 November 2005, when it was ratified by 15 States. As of October 2007, 21 States have ratified the Protocol, and 22 have signed but not yet ratified.
Concerning domestic legislation, there are various components of domestic law that can be used to prosecute those who practice FGM. Moreover, the Sudanese constitution guarantees the equality of men and women before the law, as well as the right to life and physical integrity.
The Ministry of Health has a program for the elimination of FGM and the Ministry of Social Welfare has declared itself against the practice The Sudanese Medical Council, which oversees the code of ethics of all doctors, has specified FGM to be prohibited. The Midwife and Nurses Governing Bodies have no analogous regulations, and FGM practitioners are overwhelmingly representatives of these professions.
A bill specifically prohibiting FGM is currently under review of the Sudanese Parliament. Under the new law, anyone who performs female circumcision would be subject to imprisonment, including up to 10 years if the victim dies, and repeat offenders could be subject to life imprisonment.