Country: Iraq

Population: 32.6 million (Iraqi Kurdistan - 8.35 million)

Estimated prevalence among women and girls aged 15-49:

8% (Iraqi Kurdistan - 12%)

Data Source MICS 2011
15 – 49 (%) 8.0
15 - 19 (%) 5.0
45 - 49 (%) 10
Urban (%) 9.0
Rural (%) 6.0
Lowest Region (%) 0.0
Highest Region (%) 58.0
Nicked, no flesh removed (%) --
Flesh removed (%) --
Sewn closed (%) --
Traditionally performed (%) 35.0
Medically performed (%) 6.3
National law No law

PRB 2014

Type practised:

Due to the lack of recognition the state and society give to FGC in Iraq, there is little information available to analyse. The only studies that have occurred are small, and therefore only represent a small segment of the Iraqi population. Nevertheless, from these small studies it appears that the most frequently practised form of FGC in Iraq is Type I, commonly known as clitoridectomy.

Legal status:

There is no specific anti-FGC law in Iraq as the practice is not acknowledged as an issue.

Iraqi Kurdistan:  FGC has been criminalised in Iraqi Kurdistan after the Kurdish government passed the Family Violence Law in August 2011.

History of FGC in Iraq:

Historically, the existence of FGC in Iraq has largely been ignored at both the domestic and international levels. FGC in Iraq is taboo, leading to a large proportion of the population denying its very existence. Those who responded in the short studies cited religious and cultural traditions as the reasons for the continuation of the practice.

FGC in Iraq is geographically weighted towards urban towns, with 64% of reports from the towns, compared to the 36% from the villages. The UNICEF data also shows that the majority of FGC occurs in the southern region of Qadisiya, and the central region of Salahaddin. Cutting typically occurs between the ages of 15 and 30, very late compared with global trends.

A study conducted in Kirkuk (Northern Iraq) in 2012 revealed 38% prevalence and gave evidence that FGC is not restricted to the Kurdish areas.

Iraqi Kurdistan: In 2009, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported for the first time that FGC was being practised in Kurdistan. A 2010 study indicated that FGC is widespread in both rural and urban areas. The highest prevalence rates of cut women aged 15-49 are in the regions of Erbil (58%), Sulaymaniyah (54%) and Kirkuk (20%). Interestingly, the most northerly region of Iraqi Kurdistan only has a 2% prevalence rate, which is significantly low in comparison to the other 3 regions in the protectorate.

Current efforts to abandon FGC:

WADI has released information on FGC occurrence in Iraq. A first independent study in central/southern Iraq found that 25% of the women in these regions were subjected to the practice. WADI is now lobbying for a law banning FGM in central Iraq. On February 6th 2013, the International Day to end FGC, Pana activists handed a draft law to parliamentarians in Bagdad.

Iraqi Kurdistan: Since 2005, the ‘Stop FGM in Kurdistan’ campaign has been working to end the practice. Through awareness and advocacy initiatives, ‘Stop FGM in Kurdistan’ has succeeded in breaking a taboo, making FGC a widely discussed issue. Facts about FGC have been reported in local media, covered by newspapers, debated in magazines, and discussed on radio stations and talk shows. In addition, Kurdish TV stations produce documentaries and large newspapers frequently report on the issue. As a result, information about the consequences of FGC is now widely available in northern Iraq, and the practice is a recognised problem among the Kurdish public and local authorities.

WADI conducts the FGC-free village project aimed at encouraging the abandonment of the practice through public declarations. By creating role models, they hope that other villages will follow the example.

In 2010, the highest Muslim authority in Iraqi-Kurdistan issued a fatwa saying that Islam does not require FGC.

Ongoing challenges:

The largest challenge in Iraq is overturning FGC as a taboo, as it is not acknowledged by the state or citizens alike. This is problematic considering that recognition needs to occur for anti-FGC initiatives to arise.

Iraqi Kurdistan: Although the law has succeeded in reducing the prevalence of FGC, in some areas it has also forced the practice underground. Even in areas where villagers were openly defiant of the law just after it was passed, the practice appears to now be performed in more secrecy than before.

Additional information:

In July 2014, the jihadist group ISIS supposedly released a fatwa (religious/legal decree) stating that all women in their caliphate would need to be cut. This would have effected up to 4 million women and girls. It was later contested by major media outlets.

Practising ethnic groups:

In Iraq, little is known on this subject.

Iraqi Kurdistan: Kurdish 65.4%, Arab 25.7%, Turkoman 12.3%

Major languages:

Arabic (official), Turkmen

Iraqi Kurdistan: Kurdish (official), Arabic (official)

Major religions:

Muslim (Official) 99% (Shia 60-65% Sunni 32-37%)


In the news:

Rudaw - Civil society's efforts to end FGC in Dohuk

Reuters - Survey shows FGC practice has fallen dramatically in northern Iraq

The Weekly Standard - Iranian social anthropologist highlights the damage of FGC in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan

AlMonitor - Kurdistan regional government seeks to ratify law that allows victims of FGC to file lawsuits against perpetrators

DW - Iraqi Kurdistan fights FGC

Gulf News - How Kurdistan is trying to end female genital cutting

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