The new government of Sudan recently banned FGM — a major human rights victory for our pro bono client 28 Too Many. Since 2016, Latham & Watkins has advised 28 Too Many, a charity in the United Kingdom that aims to raise awareness about female genital mutilation (FGM) practices in 28 African countries. Together, Latham and 28 Too Many researched, drafted, and released a major report on FGM.
FGM refers to any procedure that involves partially or totally removing female genitalia for nonmedical reasons. Reports estimate that at least 200 million girls and women living in certain parts of Africa and Asia have had FGM, and the majority of them suffer from serious complications and long-term consequences. The practice occurs mainly in the 28 countries along a belt stretching from Senegal in West Africa to Egypt in North Africa to Somalia in East Africa as well as parts of central Africa. Recognizing FGM as a form of gender-based violence, the United Nations has called for its ban worldwide.
28 Too Many sought to research the existing legal framework on FGM (and implementation thereof) in these countries. The organization also wanted to learn more about the knock-on effect of FGM on the lives of girls and women. Between 2016 and 2018, a London-based Latham team coordinated a large-scale research project, which involved more than 55 Latham lawyers across seven offices, three international law firms, local counsel teams, and an on-the-ground activist organization in each of the 28 jurisdictions contributing expertise and research. TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service, referred the project to Latham.
The project included working with local counsel and activists to publish twenty-eight country-specific research reports analyzing the legal position on FGM and implications of eradicating the practice, as well as providing recommendations for advocacy in each country. These reports were sent to policymakers and activists and released on social media. In addition, 28 Too Many and Latham produced an 80-page comparative guide highlighting key cross-border aspects of FGM.