HRW urges Iraq Kurds to ban female circumcision
New York: Human Rights Watch called on Iraqi
Kurdish authorities on Wednesday to implement proposals to outlaw
female circumcision in the face of growing evidence of the
extent of the physically and emotionally damaging practice.
In a 73-page report entitled: "They Took Me and Told Me
Nothing: Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan," the
New York-based watchdog recorded the experiences of 31 girls
and women in four villages in northern Iraq's autonomous
"I remember my mother and her sister-in-law took us two
girls, and there were four other girls," a 17-year-old student
called Gola from the village of Plangan told the watchdog.
"We went to Sarkapkan for the procedure. They put us in
the bathroom, held our legs open, and cut something," she
"They did it one by one with no anaesthetics... I have
lots of pain in this specific area they cut when I
The watchdog said that while there were no official
figures on the prevalence of the practice in Iraqi Kurdistan,
research conducted by local organisations indicated it was
widespread and affected a significant number of girls and
"Female genital mutilation violates women's and
children's rights, including their rights to life, health and
bodily integrity," said the watchdog's Middle East women's
rights researcher, Nadya Khalife.
HRW noted that the regional government had taken action
against other forms of abuse against women, including domestic
violence and so-called honour killings, but had failed to
deliver on proposals to tackle female circumcision.
A 2007 regional justice ministry decree ordering the
arrest and punishment of practitioners appeared never to have
been implemented, and a proposed 2008 bill to outlaw the
practice had never got beyond a preliminary vote of support
in the regional parliament.
In early 2009, the regional health ministry drew up a
strategy for eliminating the practice but later withdrew its
support with the result that a public awareness campaign was
"inexplicably delayed", the watchdog said.
"It's time for the regional government to step up to the
plate and take concrete actions to eliminate this harmful
practice because it simply won't go away on its own," Khalife
Female circumcision has traditionally been practised in
Egypt, Sudan, Yemen and parts of east Africa. It has been
outlawed in a number of countries, most recently Uganda.