Human Rights Watch on Tuesday welcomed a draft law banning female genital mutilation by the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Family Violence Bill approved June 21 by the autonomous government includes several provisions criminalising the practice in Kurdistan, HRW, said, adding that prevalence of FGM among girls and women in Kurdistan "is at least 40 percent."
"By passing this law, the Kurdistan regional government has shown its resolve to end female genital mutilation and to protect the rights of women and girls," said Nadya Khalife, Middle East women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"But the government needs a long-term strategy to deal with this harmful practice because criminalising it is not enough," she said in a statement.
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The bill has to be ratified by the regional president, Massud Barzani.
The draft law criminalises FGM, penalising medical professionals and midwives who "instigate, assist, or carry out" the procedure. Criminal penalties include prison terms ranging from six months to three years, in addition to fines of up to $8,500.
Shortly after HRW issued a June 2010 report about FGM, the Kurdistan Health Ministry surveyed 5,000 women and girls and found that 41 percent had undergone the procedure, and that the practice is more prevalent in some regions than others in Kurdistan, the statement said.
It quoted a 2010 finding by the Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation, a German-Iraqi human rights non-governmental organisation, that out of the 1,408 girls and women aged 14 and over interviewed, 72.7 percent had undergone FGM.
For the 12 to 24 age group, the prevalence was slightly over 40 percent, the report found.