Benin: Enacts law outlawing female genital mutilation

Center for Reproductive Rights
In January, Benin joined the growing list of African countries that have made female circumcision/female genital mutilation (FC/FGM) a crime.
This harmful practice, which involves cutting of the female genitals, is practiced by an estimated 50% of Benin's population. The new law imposes prison sentences and fines on individuals who practice FC/FGM in Benin.
Individuals who perform FC/FGM can receive a six-month to three-year prison sentence and a fine of as much as 2 million CFA francs (USD 3,300). Stiffer penalties are meted out to those who perform FC/FGM on women under the age of 18. Individuals responsible for the death of a woman from FC/FGM can receive between five and twenty years of hard labor, and fines ranging between three and six million CFA francs (USD 4,900 to 9,800).

Though the law is a welcomed step towards securing equal rights for women and girls in Benin, its impact will depend on the manner in which it is implemented and the government's commitment to changing people's attitudes toward the practice. "The Center strongly supports legal measures to stop FC/FGM," said Laura Katzive, the Center for Reproductive Rights' legal adviser for Global Projects. "But these measures need to be accompanied by broader strategies and policies to promote women's status and to protect their reproductive rights."

Governments are increasingly using legal strategies-particularly criminal law provisions-to stop the practice of FC/FGM. A growing number of African countries-including Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Togo-have enacted national laws outlawing FC/FGM. Several Nigerian states have also banned the practice.