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Policy on female genital mutilation (FGM)

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Approved by the Commission: April 9, 1996
Revised by the Commission: November 22, 2000
(Please note: minor revisions were made in December 2009 to address legislative amendments resulting from the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006, which came into effect on June 30, 2008.)

Available in other accessible formats on request.

1. Overview

Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to the cutting and removal of the female genitalia. FGM is a traditional practice rooted in the political, social, cultural and economic structures of the societies in which it is practised.

FGM is a gender-specific violation of the rights of girls and women to physical integrity.[1] This traditional practice is conducted in many cultures and in many countries. FGM has become recognized not only as a health hazard and a form of violence against women and girls, but also as a human rights issue under international law. Efforts at the international level, particularly by United Nations agencies, have placed FGM on women's health and human rights agendas.

For most Canadians, FGM is a vaguely understood practice usually associated with "distant" and "tradition-bound" cultures. Most people know very little about what is involved in the procedure or about the health and sociological implications for the women and girls who are subjected to it.

The OHRC acknowledges that FGM is an internationally recognized violation against women and girls’ human rights. The OHRC has developed this policy to ensure the effective protection and promotion of human rights of women and girls.

The purpose of this document is to outline the policy position of the OHRC with respect to the practice of FGM. This position has been developed within the framework of:

  1. female genital mutilation as an internationally recognized human rights issue
  2. the domestic implications of Canada's obligations as a signatory to international conventions and treaties which recognize FGM as a human rights violation
  3. the mandate and jurisdiction of the OHRC under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code).

[1]Female genital mutilation involves the use of dangerous and frightening weapons, causes permanent physical damage and sometimes death, and is targeted in the most gender specific way possible at the female genitalia.” Fitzpatrick, "International Norms and Violence Against Women" in Rebecca J. Cook, ed., Human Rights of Women: National and International Perspectives, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994) at 11.


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