Human Rights Watch has called on authorities in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan to ban the practice of female circumcision. A report issued by the group on Wednesday said the practice was widespread in Iraqi Kurdistan. It called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to enact legislation to ban the practice on young girls or unconsenting adult women. It also called on the KRG to launch a public awareness campaign on its damaging and dangerous consequences.
Female circumcision - a practice which has no basis in Islam although it is encouraged by some clerical authrities - is virtually unknown in the rest of Iraq, and it is not clear why it seems to have taken root in Iraqi Kurdistan, a deeply traditional and often tribal society. There are no comprehensive statistics, but a number of recent surveys have shown it to be surprisingly widespread.One survey carried out early last year by the KRG's Human Rights Ministry suggested that 40% of girls and young women had undergone the procedure in the Chamchamal area, between Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya. An earlier study by the German-Iraqi NGO Wadi in a broad area between Irbil, Sulaimaniya and Kirkuk yielded an even higher average figure of more than 70%.