UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Accelerating Change is the largest global programme leading efforts to prevent and eliminate FGM/C. As part of this programme, UNFPA WCARO has supported the elimination of FGM/C for many years by taking a holistic approach that focuses on leveraging social change while strengthening countries' legal and policy frameworks.

Lack of Implementation

Even though most countries in West and Central Africa have laws in place criminalizing FGM/C, only some have enforced and implmented those laws. That’s why UNFPA reached out to us requesting an overview and study of the existing legal and policy frameworks on FGM/C in nine countries (Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone). This work would support the development, enforcement, and review of effective legislation and policy.

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Case Study

Burkina Faso, one of the few countries in the region that actually prosecutes FGM/C practices, would be our case study. We conducted on-site interviews with representatives of the local government, UN agencies, the Permanent Secretariat of the National Council for the Fight against the Practice of Excision, Social Action, police/gendarmerie, prosecutors, judges, health centers, and members of Civil Society Organizations, and prison directors. This allowed us to better understand the various frameworks and strategies that make up their successful and unique approach.

Our Conclusions

We acquired a comprehensive understanding of variations and nuances in legal and policy frameworks by analyzing and comparing the different laws, National Action Plans, and policies in nine countries. Towards the end of the project, we had identified the strongest and most successful legislation and enforcement practices and some of the weaker strategies. 

The field research in Burkina Faso provided very valuable insight. Strong political leadership, a dedicated national budget line, a robust institutional framework, and efficient collaboration with the justice sector can contribute to more effective law implementation. Laws can be used as a useful tool to change attitudes and educate people, thereby working to prevent rather than to punish alone. For laws to have a significant impact, they need to be widely understood, discussed, and ‘owned’ by the people.