2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 33

Thursday, February 6, 2014
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

Hon.  Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, today, February 6, marks the United Nations International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.

Female genital mutilation is a practice that historically has victimized roughly 125 million women and girls. It is a procedure that involves the partial or complete removal of a female’s external genitalia.

As Canadians, we acknowledge that female genital mutilation is a form of child abuse. As a country we have taken steps to speak out against this practice. Unfortunately, in spite of our efforts, over 30 million girls continue to be at risk, as female genital mutilation is still practised today.


When I was President of the National Women’s Liberal Commission, I worked with many women to have Prime Minister Chretien’s government forbid this practice in Canada. In 1997, Parliament passed Bill C-27, which made female genital mutilation a criminal act. Therefore, here in Canada, this practice is considered to be a criminal offence, and those who perform this procedure can be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada.

I’m extremely sad to report that not one conviction has been made since this law has been passed, even though it is known that this practice continues to take place in Canada.

Honourable senators, many countries have stepped up to the plate and taken steps to protect young women and girls from being victimized by this terrible practice. New Zealand, for example, has an active campaign to stamp out FGM in their country. The United Kingdom is backing an African initiative in an effort to help build a global movement to stamp out FGM and is investing $35 million to encourage the abandonment of this culturally ingrained practice. They state that they will not rest until FGM comes to a stop the same way foot binding did in the history books.

The United States has been working since 1990 and has incorporated the elimination of FGM into its development agenda. The United States government, under President Barack Obama, is also working hard to stamp out FGM throughout the world by focusing on an integrated, multi-sector approach that aims to bring together advocates, policy-makers and communities to transform the cultural practice of female genital mutilation and to stop this practice all over the world.

Honourable senators, I want to share with you my first-hand experience of this practice. I was in a small hospital in East Africa when I saw a little girl who had undergone this mutilation being carried in her father’s arms. The father’s clothes were drenched in blood, and so were the little girl’s. The father and mother were sobbing, and there was no sound from the little girl. The little girl was rushed into surgery and the doctors fought valiantly to save the life of the child. Unfortunately, this little girl bled to death.

Every day, many girls around the world fall victim to this horrifying procedure, and many don’t survive. This is a practice that continues within our borders as well.

Honourable senators, I ask you to reconfirm your commitment to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation in Ottawa, in Canada and around the world.