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Analyzing the Legal Frameworks and Policy Responses to Female Genital Mutilation in South American Countries

Nwamaka Ekpecham

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting or circumcision, is a  harmful practice that involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other  injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Despite being predominantly associated  with African countries, FGM also occurs in other regions, including South America. In this article,  we delve into the legal frameworks and policy responses to combat FGM in South American  countries, examining the prevalence, cultural factors, legal measures, and challenges faced in  addressing this issue. 

Prevalence of FGM in South America 

While FGM is most commonly associated with African and Middle Eastern countries, it also exists  in some communities in South America, particularly in indigenous groups and immigrant  communities. Although data on the prevalence of FGM in South America is limited, reports  suggest that countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Peru have recorded cases of FGM within certain  ethnic communities. However, it’s crucial to note that FGM practices may vary across regions and  communities within these countries. 

Cultural Factors and Challenges 

The practice of FGM is deeply entrenched in cultural beliefs, traditions, and social norms. In South  American countries, FGM is often linked to cultural practices of indigenous communities or  migrant populations originating from countries where FGM is prevalent. These communities may  view FGM as a rite of passage, a way to control female sexuality, or a tradition that must be upheld  to maintain cultural identity. 

Challenging FGM requires a sensitive approach that respects cultural diversity while prioritizing  the rights and well-being of women and girls. Addressing FGM in South American countries  involves navigating complex cultural dynamics, overcoming resistance from communities that  practice FGM, and promoting alternative rites of passage that respect women’s rights and bodily  integrity. 

Legal Frameworks and Policy Responses 

Several South American countries have taken steps to address FGM through legal frameworks and  policy responses. These measures aim to criminalize FGM, raise awareness, provide support  services to affected individuals, and promote gender equality and women’s rights. 

Brazil: Brazil has made significant strides in combating FGM through legislative and policy  measures. The country criminalized FGM in 1996 under Law No. 9.455, which prohibits any form  of violence against women, including genital mutilation. Additionally, Brazil has implemented  awareness campaigns and initiatives to empower women and girls, provide healthcare services,  and support survivors of FGM. However, challenges remain in reaching remote indigenous  communities where FGM may still occur due to cultural practices. 

Colombia: Colombia has also taken steps to address FGM within indigenous communities. The  Colombian government recognizes FGM as a form of violence against women and girls and has  implemented policies to prevent and respond to this practice. Efforts include providing education  and training to healthcare providers, conducting community outreach programs, and collaborating  with indigenous leaders to raise awareness and promote alternative rituals that respect women’s  rights. 

Peru: In Peru, FGM is prohibited under Law No. 29.337, which criminalizes all forms of violence  against women, including FGM. The Peruvian government has partnered with civil society  organizations and international agencies to raise awareness about FGM, provide support services  to survivors, and strengthen the capacity of law enforcement and healthcare providers to address  this issue effectively. 

Challenges and Future Directions 

Despite efforts to combat FGM in South American countries, significant challenges persist in  eradicating this harmful practice completely. These challenges include: 

Limited Data: The lack of comprehensive data on the prevalence of FGM in South America  hinders efforts to understand the scope of the problem and design targeted interventions. ∙ Cultural Sensitivity: Addressing FGM requires a culturally sensitive approach that respects the  traditions and beliefs of affected communities while promoting human rights and gender  equality. Building trust and engaging with community leaders are essential for effective  interventions. 

Access to Services: Ensuring access to healthcare, legal assistance, and support services for  survivors of FGM is crucial. However, in remote and marginalized communities, access to  these services may be limited due to geographical barriers, stigma, and discrimination. 

Coordination and Collaboration: Addressing FGM requires multi-sectoral collaboration  involving government agencies, civil society organizations, healthcare providers, law  enforcement, and community leaders. Coordination and collaboration among these  stakeholders are essential for developing comprehensive strategies and implementing effective  interventions.

Moving forward, South American countries must continue to strengthen their legal frameworks,  enhance data collection mechanisms, invest in community-based interventions, and prioritize the  rights and well-being of women and girls. By working together and addressing the root causes of  FGM, we can create a future where every woman and girl can live free from violence and  discrimination. 


Female Genital Mutilation is a harmful practice that persists in certain communities in South  American countries. Addressing FGM requires a comprehensive approach that combines legal  frameworks, policy responses, community engagement, and awareness-raising efforts. While  progress has been made in combating FGM in South America, significant challenges remain. By  promoting gender equality, empowering women and girls, and respecting cultural diversity, we  can work towards eradicating FGM and ensuring the rights and well-being of all individuals,  regardless of their background or ethnicity.

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