Throughout this knowledge module, reference to certain provisions or sections of a piece of legislation, part of a legal judgment, or aspect of a practice does not imply that the legislation, judgment, or practice is considered in its entirety to be a good example or a promising practice.

Some of the laws cited herein may contain provisions which authorize the death penalty. In light of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/14963/16865/206, and 67/176 calling for a moratorium on and ultimate abolition of capital punishment, the death penalty should not be included in sentencing provisions for crimes of violence against women and girls.

Other Provisions Related to Domestic Violence LawsResources for Developing Legislation on Domestic Violence
Sexual Harassment in Sport Tools for Drafting Sexual Harassment Laws and Policies
Immigration Provisions Resources for developing legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls
Child Protection Provisions Resources on Forced and Child Marriage
Other provisions related to dowry-related and domestic violence laws
Related Tools

National plan and strategy

Last edited: February 25, 2011

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  • Legislation should require that the state draft and implement a national plan and strategy to eliminate FGM within the next generation, or the next ten years. 
  • The national action plan and strategy should reflect a proactive coordinated response providing a framework for all agencies in the state, including legal, health, and community. 
  • The national plan or strategy should emphasize accurate information that will be presented in all applicable local languages and will also be presented to the non-literate. 
  • Legislation should require that child protection services are incorporated into the national plan and strategy. 
  • Legislation should require adequate funding to implement the national plan and strategy.

Promising Practices:  Norway’s National and International Action Plans

 Norway’s Action Plan for Combating Female Genital Mutilation – Norwegian Ministries, 2008-2011

Norway first passed a law against FGM in 1995 and issued its first action plan against FGM in 2000. Norway’s current 2008-2011 Action Plan for Combating Female Genital Mutilation represents a government-issued national action plan and strategy. A collaborative effort between seven ministries, the Action Plan recognizes the need for a coordinated response by national, regional and local authorities, affected groups and relevant religious communities. The Action Plan creates a national advisory group to facilitate this cooperation, identifies responsibilities of respective ministries for various sections of the Action Plan, and places the responsibility for coordinating efforts to combat FGM with the Ministry of Children and Equality. The Action Plan is divided into six categories of objectives, which, in turn, delineate further steps and identify responsible ministries:

  • Effective enforcement of legislation;
  • Competence-building and the transfer of knowledge;
  • Prevention and opinion-building;
  • Available health services;
  • Extra effort at holiday times; and
  • Stronger international efforts. 

 The Norwegian Government’s International Action Plan for Combating Female Genital Mutilation, 2003

In addition to their national action plan, Norway has also had an international action plan since 2003 outlining international efforts to combat FGM both in Norway and abroad.  Using human rights as the entry point, the plan focuses on three main areas of effort: 1) the prevention of FGM and the promotion of social mobilization against the practice; 2) the treatment and rehabilitation of both girls and women who have undergone FGM; and 3) competence building at all levels in the effort to combat FGM.


Promising Practice: In 2011, the Republic of Kiribati published a national Action Plan detailing the government’s dedication to ending all gender and sexual-based violence in Kiribati.  The five key Strategic Areas which form the Policy’s main intervention are as follows:

  • Develop National Leadership and Commitments to Eliminate Gender Based Violence
  • Strengthen Legal frameworks, Law enforcement and the Justice system
  • Build Institutional and Community Capacity
  • Strengthen & Improve Preventive, Protective, Social and Support services
  • Eliminate and Prevent GBV through Civic Engagement and Advocacy


Promising Practice: In 2011, the United Kingdom developed a comprehensive Action Plan – A Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls.    The plan for preventing violence has four main goals, and lays out a framework for achieving each goal:

  • change the attitudes, behaviours and practices which contribute to Violence Against Women and Girls (“VAWG”) by means of appropriate and targeted challenge;
  • increase public understanding of VAWG by putting in place focused awareness-raising initiatives which include looking at its root causes, hidden nature and economic cost to society;
  • strengthen understanding of the unacceptability of VAWG by ensuring our frontline partners can intervene early to challenge acceptability; and
  • protect vulnerable children by working with frontline partners to make them aware of the tools and systems available to them to ensure the right first response.

The government rightly acknowledged that one of the main difficulties in combatting violence against women and girls is the ability to enforce national legislation and action plans on the local level.  To that end, they also pledged significant resources to “specialist” violence against women services.

The plan also discusses in detail the importance of first response to violence matters, provision of services to victims and the administration of justice to perpetrators.  Finally, the government commits to reviewing the plan of action on a regular basis, stated in the report as six months.


Promising Practice: In 2012, the Pacific Regional Working Group on Women, Peace and Security was established to develop an action plan regarding women, peace and security. The action plan covers the nations of Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The report acknowledges the widespread gender inequality issues that Pacific nations face, including the use of bride price and the prevalence of domestic violence. It addresses the general empowerment of women, and also specifically acknowledges the disproportionate effect that violent conflict and security threats have on the lives and livelihoods of women, including the displacement from land. One of the focus areas of the action plan is: the “Protection of women’s and girls’ human rights during humanitarian crises and in transitional and post-­conflict contexts.”


Illustrative Examples:

  • European Network for the Prevention and Eradication of Harmful Traditional Practices
    The European Network for the Prevention and Eradication of Harmful Traditional Practices coordinated a project involving the governments and civil societies of 15 European countries. As a result of the project, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom each launched a new or updated national action plan to address the issue of FGM. Ireland’s National Plan of Action is discussed below.
  • Ireland's National Plan of Action to Address Female Genital Mutilation, 2008
    Ireland’s National Plan of Action is an example of an interagency non-governmental action plan directed to create coordinated strategy and collaboration across agencies to combat the practice of FGM. It was drafted by a national steering committee comprised of mostly Irish Aid and Irish development non-governmental organizations. The Plan of Action recognized that Ireland lacked a coordinated strategy or interagency working group to address FGM. As a result, government and non-government agencies did not communicate and their efforts to address FGM are not effectively implemented.  Following examples of interagency cooperation on FGM from countries such as Norway and Sweden, the Action Plan sets forth a plan to join policies from various agencies with an aim toward concerted collaborative efforts to combat FGM. The goals of the Plan of Action are to: 1) prevent the practice of FGM in Ireland; 2) provide quality and appropriate health care for women and girls who have undergone FGM; and 3) contribute to the worldwide campaign to end FGM. The Plan of Action sets forth five strategy headings from which action flows in a combination of “top-down policy and legislative measures with bottom-up community development approaches to maximize impact”:  Legal; Asylum; Health; Community; and Development Aid.

UN Women’s Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence Against Women (2012) recommends that national action plans should outline a comprehensive, coherent, and sustained programme of activity that builds evidence and practice over time, including the following elements:

  • Cross-cutting actions to establish governance structures, ensure participation of civil society, strengthen law and policy, build capacity of workforces and organizations, and improve evidence, throughout all aspects of the Plan (see chapter 3.3);
  • A coordinated strategy for the primary prevention of violence against women (see chapter 3.4);
  • The establishment and ongoing improvement of an integrated service, police and judicial response to violence against women (see chapter 3.5);
  • A description of how the Plan will be implemented, including articulation of concrete goals, actions, timelines and implementing entities; links to gender equality machinery and policy; and designated funding sources (see chapter 3.6); and
  • Evaluation, monitoring and reporting of the above (see chapter 3.7).

Ratify International and Regional Human Rights Instruments

  • As part of any national plan and strategy to eliminate FGM, governments should ratify international and regional human rights treaties that are relevant to FGM and call for an end to the practice.
  • Ratification of such treaties, however, should be done with no reservations which undermine the signing state’s obligation to promote women’s rights or eliminate the practice of FGM.  For example, reservations to the Women’s Convention or the Convention on the Rights of the Child which state that customary law or principles of Islam have precedence over treaty articles that prohibit discrimination against women or other conflicting directives of the Convention, undermine the very intent of the treaty itself. 
  • Clear government commitment to human rights, as evidenced by ratification without reservations of human rights treaties, provides impetus for social movements necessary for social change.
  • After ratification, existing and future legislation must be amended or written to be consistent with the ratified human rights instruments.  Ratification of such treaties will require the drafting, implementation, and monitoring of new laws and policies to protect women and girls from FGM and eliminate the practice. 

Ensure Constitutional Protections
The national strategy should also ensure that the national constitution upholds the rights of women and girls to be free from FGM.  The constitution is likely the highest legal authority, and legislation and government action generally must conform to the norms and standards set forth in it.  As such, a constitution should be drafted to include measures to:

  • ensure the equality of women and girls;
  • protect the rights of children explicitly;
  • establish supremacy of constitutional protections and other formal law over customary or religious laws; and
  • explicitly prohibit the harmful practices, including FGM.

Illustrative Examples of Constitutional Protections : 

Ethiopia - While the Ethiopian Constitution does not explicitly refer to FGM, it establishes the supremacy of constitutional provisions and protects women and girls from “harmful customs”, including by interpretation FGM.

 Article 9  Supremacy of the Constitution
(1)   The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any law, customary practice or a decision of an organ of state or a public official which contravenes this Constitution shall be of no effect.     
(2)   All citizens, organs of state, political organizations, other associations as well as their officials have the duty to ensure observance of the Constitution and to obey it.
It is prohibited to assume state power in any manner other than that provided under the Constitution.
All international agreements ratified by Ethiopia are an integral part of the law of the land. (Emphasis added).

  Article 35  Rights of Women

(1)   Women shall, in the enjoyment of rights and protections provided for by this Constitution, have equal right with men.         
Women have equal rights with men in marriage as prescribed by this Constitution.
(3)   The historical legacy of inequality and discrimination suffered by women in Ethiopia taken into account, women, in order to remedy this legacy, are entitled to affirmative measures. The purpose of such measures shall be to provide special attention to women so as to enable them to compete and participate on the basis of equality with men in political, social and economic life as well as in public and private institutions.
(4)   The State shall enforce the right of women to eliminate the influences of harmful customs. Laws, customs and practices that oppress or cause bodily or mental harm to women are prohibited.  
(5)   (a) Women have the right to maternity leave with full pay. The duration of maternity leave shall be determined by law taking into account the nature of the work, the health of the mother and the well-being of the child and family.
      (b) Maternity leave may, in accordance with the provisions of law, include prenatal leave with full pay.   
(6)   Women have the right to full consultation in the formulation of national development policies, the designing and execution of projects, and particularly in the case of projects affecting the interests of women.         
Women have the right to acquire, administer, control, use and transfer property. In particular, they have equal rights with men with respect to use, transfer, administration and control of land. They shall also enjoy equal treatment in the inheritance of property.          
Women shall have a right to equality in employment, promotion, pay, and the transfer of pension entitlements.
(9)   To prevent harm arising from pregnancy and childbirth and in order to safeguard their health, women have the right of access to family planning education, information and capacity.  (Emphasis added.)

Ghana - Constitution of Ghana – Similarly, FGM is considered a harmful practice prohibited under the Constitution, which is explicitly given supremacy over other formal or informal laws. 

Chapter 1, Paragraph 1(2)- The Constitution shall be the supreme law of Ghana and any other law found to be inconsistent with any provision of this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

 Chapter 5, Paragraph 26
(1) Every person is entitled to enjoy, practise, profess, maintain and promote any culture, language, tradition or religion subject to the provisions of this Constitution.

(2) All customary practices which dehumanise or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person are prohibited.

Chapter 6, Paragraph 39 -
(1) Subject to clause (2) of this article, the State shall take steps to encourage the integration of appropriate customary values into the fabric of national life through formal and informal education and the conscious introduction of cultural dimensions to relevant aspects of national planning.

(2) The State shall ensure that appropriate customary and cultural values are adapted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of the society as a whole; and in particular that traditional practices which are injurious to the health and well-being of the person of the person are abolished.
(3) The State shall foster the development of Ghanaian languages and pride in Ghanaian culture.
(4) The State shall endeavour to preserve and protect places of historical interest and artifacts. (Emphasis added.)