Statement made at UNHRC 26th Session June 16, 2014

United Nations Human Rights Council: 26th Session (10th – 27th June 2014)
High-level panel discussion on the identification of good practices in combating FGM, Monday 16th June 2014, Speaker: CfI Representative, Raheel Raza

FGM: Culture or Religion is no Excuse[1]

Female Genital Multilation (FGM) is a practice often upheld by a number of cultural and religious traditions[2] as well as individuals with social standing, such as traditional or religious leaders, elders, and circumcisers[3].

But social and cultural claims cannot be invoked to justify the practice. For example, freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs is subject to limitations necessary to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of others[4].

FGM stands in diametric opposition to an understanding of human rights. When performed on girls it constitutes a violation of the rights of the child, specifically the child’s right to “enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health”[5]. The practice also violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person. The UN Committee on torture has described FGM as amounting to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment[6].

Since the factors involved in perpetuating FGM are often grounded in social, cultural and traditional conventions supported and promoted by local communities, legal prohibition of FGM on its own will be insufficient.

We therefore encourage state laws and international regulations against the practice be complemented by education and public awareness-raising activities. Information campaigns must be implemented in order to educate and mobilize public opinion against FGM and more needs to be done at the international level to encourage exchange of information and good practice.

We urge the Council to make clear and stress that culture, religion and tradition cannot be used to defend the practice of FGM and accordingly the undermining of the well-established rights of women and girls.


[1] With permission, this statement is based on the written statement submitted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, See: A/HRC/26/NGO/39.

[2] Although the practice pre-dates Christianity and Islam, in some communities FGM has been upheld by beliefs associated with religion, and has acquired a religious dimension that is frequently cited as the reason for its use. See

[3]WHO, 2008. in some communities FGM has been upheld by beliefs associated with religion, and has acquired a religious dimension that is frequently cited as the reason for its use, see

[4] ICCPR, article 18.3; UNESCO, 2001, “UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity”, article 4.




About raheelraza

Author, Public Speaker and Human Rights Advocate
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