1st Violence Against Women Conference in Mauritius

November 27, 2018

The 23rd of November 2018, I presented at the ‘1st Elimination of Violence Against Women Conference’ organized by Middlesex University Mauritius. This conference was organized in support of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The call for papers stated the following:

The last years marked several important victories for women. Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia repealed rape-marriage laws. Powerful men were held accountable for sexual harassment and assault. Chile eased its rules on abortion. The UK and parts of the US eliminated tampon taxes. More women were involved in the peace-building process in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Yemen. For the first time in decades, some Pakistani women voted. Female heads of state were appointed in Croatia, Lithuania, Mauritius, Nepal and Taiwan. Canada and the Netherlands stepped up to direct more resources to advance women’s rights. Thousands of women marched for anti-discrimination, LGBTQI rights, reproductive rights, religious freedom and refugee rights all over the world. Despite these victories, women still face many challenges. In mid-2016, only 22.8% of all national parliamentarians were women. The gender gap in the labour market prevails. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women worldwide experiences physical and/or sexual violence during their lifetime. Russia took steps to decriminalise domestic violence. Bangladesh is considering to legalise the marriage of girls under the age of 18. Early and forced marriage as well as poverty and gender norms prevent many girls around the world from attending secondary school. In addition to promoting gender inequality, social customs such as female genital mutilation impose real health consequences. It is estimated that 800 women die every day from preventable, pregnancy-related causes. The US’ Global Gag Rule threatens global health funding and its efforts to defund Planned Parenthood undermine women’s legal and reproductive rights at home. Conflict-related sexualised violence continues to be perpetrated in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Congo, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Every year, over 60,000 women are killed in an act of femicide around the world.

Against this background, we invite proposals for oral presentations in the following or related areas:

  • Women in and at war
  • Violence against women, peace and security
  • Violence against women and health
  • Violence against women and the economy
  • Violence against women and education
  • Violence against women and the law
  • Representations of women
  • Women and the media
  • Human trafficking
  • Child marriage
  • Perpetrators
  • Costs and consequences of violence against women
  • Prevention of violence against women
  • Success stories

I was very happy when I received an e-mail from the organizers in August that my abstract was selected! The title of my presentation was: “Effectiveness of laws to end Female Genital Mutilation: the Success Story of Burkina Faso.”

My abstract stated the following: “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of girls and women. It is estimated that at least 200 girls and women have been subjected to FGM/C worldwide. Despite the many global and national efforts to promote the elimination of all forms of FGM/C, the practice still remains widespread. Since the 1990s, a large number of countries in Africa have enacted national legislation prohibiting FGM/C. However, the effectiveness of laws to end FGM/C have been questioned, as laws are rarely implemented and reports of prosecutions or arrests in cases involving FGM/C are exceptional. Critics argue that the legal prohibition fails to act as a deterrent, and can be ineffective or even counterproductive. Although this might be true in certain contexts, this study shows the unique and exemplary track record of Burkina Faso in relation to the effective implementation and enforcement of the law against FGM/C. A large number of FGM/C cases have been brought to court in Burkina Faso, resulting in the conviction of cutters, parents and accomplices. The case study in Burkina Faso provides some key insights into how a legal framework prohibiting FGM can be effectively implemented and enforced, while also contributing to social change and ultimately results in communities’ decisions to eliminate the practice. This approach could serve as inspiration for other countries seeking to strengthen the effective implementation and enforcement of their laws prohibiting FGM/C.”

These are the findings of a study I conducted as an individual consultant for UNFPA Regional Office for West and Central Africa. The UNFPA report covers 9 countries in West and Central Africa and is published in January 2018. This report can be downloaded here: However, at this moment, I am writing – together with two staff members of UNFPA – an academic article purely focusing on the effective implementation of the law criminalizing FGM in Burkina Faso. I video recorded my presentation, which is now available online. The presentations of other speakers are also available on youtube.

More information about the university and the conference can be found here.