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
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Duty to report

Last edited: February 25, 2011

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  • Legislation should provide that persons who become aware of the occurrence of FGM shall be required to report the crime to the prosecutor of the region wherein the crime occurred. 
  • Legislation should state that a person with a reasonable fear that FGM will be practiced upon an individual has the duty to report to the local child protection agency. If there is no local child protection agency, a person with a reasonable fear that FGM will be practiced upon an individual has the duty to report to the police. Reasonable fear must be defined in a way that is not based solely on a family’s ethnic origin. Legislation should provide guidelines on what factual information can form the basis of a suspicion that would trigger a duty to report.  Special guidelines should be developed for health care providers, social workers, and teachers. (See The FGM Legislation Implemented: Experiences from Sweden)
  • Legislation should provide that a hotline be established where perpetrators may be reported, or where people, including potential victims, can report those who have the intent to break the law. (See provision on obtaining an order for protection, below.) 
  • Legislation should include health centers, social service organizations and educators in this duty to report.  

Illustrative Examples:

  • European Parliament Resolution on Female Genital Mutilation (2001/2035(INI)), Para. AA, 11:
    The European Parliament ... [c]alls on the Member States ... to adopt administrative provisions concerning health centres and the medical profession, educational centres and social workers, as well as codes of conduct, decrees and ethical codes, to ensure that health professionals, social workers, teachers and educators report cases of which they are aware or instances of people at risk who need protection and, furthermore, carry out simultaneously the task of education and awareness-raising among families. This would not constitute a violation of professional secrecy.
  • Burkina Faso Penal Code, Art. 382:
    Any person who is aware of acts as defined by Article 380 and who fails to notify the competent authorities shall be punishable by a fine ranging from CFA francs 50,000 to 100,000.      
  • Togo: Act No. 98-016 of November 17, 1998 Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation (in French – unofficial translation below):
    One who, having knowledge of an excision already planned, attempted or performed, whereas one could think that the culprits or one of them would perform new female genital mutilations which a denunciation could prevent, did not immediately inform the public authorities, will be punished with one month to one year imprisonment or a fine from 20,000 to 500,000 francs.
  • The Republic of Benin - Law No. 2003-3 on Repression of the Practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Articles 9 and 10: 
    Article 9: Any person who, having been informed that a female genital mutilation was being planned, did nothing to prevent the act will be prosecuted for failure to render assistance and will be sentenced in accordance with the relevant provisions of the criminal code.

    Any person who is aware of an act of female genital mutilation is required to report the fact immediately to the nearest State prosecutor or police criminal investigation department for legal purposes.  Failure to report is punishable by a fine of fifty thousand to one hundred thousand francs.      

    Article 10:  Both public and private health services are required to receive victims of female genital mutilations and to provide them with the appropriate medical attention.

    They shall inform the nearest State prosecutor or police criminal investigation department for legal purposes.

A person commits an offence if the person, being aware that an offence of genital female mutilation has been, is in the process of being, or intends to be, committed, fails to report accordingly to a law enforcer.


Promising Practice: Norway - Duty to Report

Female Genital Mutilation is prohibited in Norway. (Act Relating to Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation, Sections 1 and 2). This law extends to circumstances when FGM is practiced outside of the country. Anyone can report a suspicion of violence against a child, but any concern that a child may be or has already been subjected to FGM triggers a duty to report for certain professionals. In fact, certain professional practitioners and employees can incur liability for failure to attempt to prevent FGM. Specifically, according to Section 6-4 of The Child Welfare Act, notwithstanding the duty of confidentiality, the public authorities have an obligation to inform the child welfare services if there is reason to believe that the child is subject to severe neglect or “deficit of parental care.” FGM is considered gross neglect, and triggers the duty to report. Persons subject to professional secrecy, such as doctors, nurses and psychologists, also have the same obligation to report such information. This duty to report is recognized and highlighted in Norway’s Action Plan for Combating Female Genital Mutilation, 2008-2011.

Norway - Child Welfare Act/Act Relating to Children Welfare Services, Section 6–4, Para 2 & 3 

Notwithstanding the duty of secrecy, public authorities shall on their own initiative disclose information to the municipal child welfare service when there is reason to believe that a child is being mistreated at home or is subjected to other serious deficit of parental care, cf. sections 4–10, 4–11 and 4–12, or when a child has shown persistent, serious behavioural problems, cf. section 4–24. Organisations and private entities that perform tasks for the State, county municipality or municipality are considered on a par with public authorities. Public authorities are also obligated to disclose such information when ordered to do so by agencies which are responsible for implementation of the Act. When so instructed by these agencies, public authorities are also obligated in connection with cases to be settled by the County Board pursuant to sections 4–19, 4–20 and 4–21 to disclose information that is necessary to determine whether moving back to parents or spending time with them may lead to a situation or risk to the child as mentioned in sections 4–10, 4–11 or 4–12. 

Practitioners of professions pursuant to the Act relating to Healthcare Personnel, Act relating to Mental Health Care, Act relating to Municipal Health Services, Act relating to Family Counselling Services and Mediators in Matrimonial Cases (cf. Marriage Act), and the Act relating to independent schools are also obligated to disclose information pursuant to the rules of the second paragraph.

(See also: UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children – Information from Norway in response to the questionnaire)