In June 2011, Iraqi Kurdistan passed a law which criminalised FGM and domestic violence, but one year on, activists remain frustrated with its patchwork implementation, Middle East Online reported on Monday. “You cannot find that the numbers (for FGM) have reduced because of this law, because no one knows about it”, said Suzan Aref, head of the Women’s Empowerment Organisation.
In what is considered a conservative society even by Middle East standards, the passage of the law last year was hailed by rights groups and NGOs as a major step forward after years of struggle. The law punishes physical, sexual and psychological assault committed within the family, creates conditions for the protection of victims and mandates the establishment of specialised courts. And: It also carries penal and financial punishments for those who promote or practice female genital mutilation.
Another reason for the lack of implementation: Judges and religious leaders have stood in the way of the law’s full implementation, according to Ramziya Zana, head of the Arbil-based Gender Studies and Information Centre Organisation. “Most judges think this is harmful for the family“, she further stated.
FGM is widespread in Kurdistan. According to a report of the German NGO Wadi, over 72 percent of women in the region’s two biggest provinces were victims of female genital mutilation, with the rate rising to almost 100 percent in some areas.
Pakhshan Zangana, Secretary General of the High Council for Women’s Affairs, a Kurdish government agency, remained optimistic: „”It is new in a society like our’s — anything against traditional culture, we cannot measure within months,” she said.