International legal obligations to combat female genital cutting (FGM/C)

The UN human rights treaties prohibit FGM/C, as do regional human rights conventions such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. These instruments oblige state parties to ensure that girls and women are protected against genital cutting through prevention, victim support and the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.

FGM/C constitutes a grave violation of human rights. The practice violates both the right to physical and mental integrity and the right to health. FGM/C represents a form of gender-based violence and discrimination against women and girls.


General prohibition of FGM/C in the UN universal human rights instruments

The prohibition of FGM/C extends as far back as the core UN human rights instruments, and specifically to the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment, such as those formulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture. The right to health is guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These same rights are also protected by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Regional human rights treaties

Not only international human rights conventions at UN level put countries under an obligation to combat FGM/C; there are regional instruments that do so as well.

Clear condemnation by the community of states

Action has also been taken to combat the practice of female genital cutting at political level, e.g. at international conferences such as the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 or the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

  • Female genital cutting was condemned by the UN General Assembly for the first time in 2012. Read here the full text of the resolution of the UN General Assembly (A/Res 67/146), Intensifying Global Efforts for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilations of 20 December 2012. The UN General Assembly returned to the issue in 2014 and 2016, reinforcing its condemnation of this harmful practice.
  • You can find further documents on the website www.womenshumanrights.ch under the keywords “female genital mutilation”.
  • A list of the recommendations about combating FGM/C issued to Switzerland by international human rights bodies can be found in the Universal Human Rights Index under the keywords “female genital mutilation”.
  • For further information on the implementation of international conventions in Switzerland see the website