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Under the Knife

Grading Iraqi Kurdistan's Progress Against Female Genital Mutilation

An Kurdish woman touches a piece of cloth while shopping at a bazaar in Marivan in Kurdistan province, 318 miles West of Tehran, May 12, 2011. Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters

Last month, Nigeria became the most recent African country to formally ban female genital mutilation, a barbaric practice performed on 150 million girls across the world. The move was cheered around the globe, but the celebration was tinged with some reservation. Realistically, most recognize, a piece of paper issued in parliament isn’t enough to combat a deeply rooted tradition stretching back thousands of years. Indeed, although the law “is a major boost not only for Nigeria’s women, but for the nation as a whole,” Stella Mukasa of the International Center for Research on Women told me, “The question is: Will it make a practical difference?”

In just the last five years, six other countries—Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Zambia—have passed legislation banning female genital mutilation. In other words, the practice is now illegal in almost all the countries where the United Nations suspects it occurs. Evidence

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