Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report urging leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan to prohibit the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). The report, entitled “They Took Me and Told Me Nothing,” recommends that the Kurdistan Regional Government support the efforts of local organizations to eradicate FGM and strengthen their ability to respond to gender-based violence. In addition to advocating for legislation, HRW recommends the creation of a public awareness campaign that would draw attention to the harmful consequences of FGM and the human rights of women and girls.
The report illustrates that FGM is a common practice in Iraqi Kurdistan, with surveys showing that 40-70% of girls and women have undergone the procedure. Researchers from HRW interviewed 31 women and girls to gather information on the specific experiences of those who have experienced FGM. HRW’s report states that FGM serves no valid medical purpose and is a violation of the human rights of women and girls.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, the procedure is most often performed by non-medical professionals in conditions that are less than hygienic. Girls between the ages of 3 and 12 are often ushered away by female relatives without knowing they are about to undergo the procedure; this practice inspired the title for HRW’s report. The most common form of FGM practiced in Kurdistan is a clitoridectomy – partial or total removal of the clitoris or prepuce.
This report is one of many steps that have been taken to eliminate the practice of FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan. Previously in 2007, the Kurdistan Regional Government ordered individuals responsible for performing FGM to be incarcerated and fined. No evidence shows this order has been enforced. In 2008, a draft law banning FGM made its way to parliament; however, no actions were taken to ratify the bill and its status is currently unknown.