The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) High Council of Women’s Affairs (HCWA) together with UNICEF, Heartland Alliance International, and Wadi, and in collaboration with UN Women and UNFPA, released this week results of a first-ever ‘knowledge, attitudes and practices’ (KAP) survey on the root causes of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) and convened a conference to share vital information and recommendations to fully eliminate the practice from the region.

“FGM is a violation against the humanity of a woman,” said Pakhshan Zangana, Secretary General of the HCWA. “The practice robs women of their will, objectifies and dehumanizes them and must be completely eradicated from Kurdistan.”

While FGM remains a concern in some areas of northern Iraq, its incidence is in decline. Results of the KAP survey – the first ever conducted on FGM in the Middle East North Africa region, supported by generous funding from the Government of Italy – reveal that mutilation rates among women in northern Iraq increase with age, indicating that fewer girls among younger generations have been subjected to the brutal practice. 

“Ending FGM worldwide reaches to the heart of UNICEF’s mandate to eliminate violence against young girls and to confront gender inequalities,” said Dr. Marzio Babille, UNICEF Iraq Representative. “All Iraqis should have pride in the declines in FGM practices in the region and continue the remarkable work to achieve its complete elimination.” 

According to Frances Guy, UN Women Representative to Iraq, “I have been inspired by women in Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen and Kurdistan who are bravely fighting to protect their daughters from this abominable crime. In Kurdistan we have a chance to end this practice within a generation. Let’s do it.”

Findings (see attached) further confirm that while religious, social and cultural perceptions reinforce mutilation practices, most individuals, including religious leaders, do not support FGM. Indeed, community dialogues held as a component of the study were successful in convincing leaders of some villages of the KR-I to advocate for the elimination of FGM in their communities.

The survey, which included 827 households across Erbil and Sulimaniyeh Governorates, will now inform UNICEF advocacy, media messages, social mobilization and other interventions designed to target barriers to FGM eradication. 

According to Dr. Radouane Belouali, UNFPA Iraq Chief of Operations, “FGM is nothing short of sexual violence perpetrated against young girls and women, against their will and in contravention of national and international laws.”

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is often carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers.


Notes to editors:

For further information, please contact the UNICEF UK Media Office, 0207 375 6030


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  UNICEF UK raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work and advocates for lasting change for children everywhere. We are a UK registered charity, supported entirely by voluntary donations. We do not receive any money from the UN. For more information, please visit