Responses to Information Requests

​​Responses to Information Requests (RIR) are research reports on country conditions. They are requested by IRB decision makers.

The database contains a seven-year archive of English and French RIR. Earlier RIR may be found on the European Country of Origin Information Network website​.

Please note that some RIR have attachments which are not electronically accessible here. To obtain a copy of an attachment, please e-mail us.

Related Links

30 August 2019

COD106349.FE

Democratic Republic of Congo: The prevalence of ritual female genital mutilation (FGM), including in ethnic groups in which FGM is common; the consequences of refusal; state protection and support services (2017–August 2019)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview
1.1 Data

Sources indicate that up-to-date [and reliable (Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019)] data on FGM in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is not available (Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019; EU 10 July 2019, 6; Switzerland 15 Jan. 2016, 10). According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, FGM are [UN English version] “largely unreported” in the DRC (UN 28 Feb. 2017, para. 27). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a lawyer DRC civil society member also stated that the prevalence of FGM is difficult to assess, as it is not practised [translation] “officially” (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019).

1.2 Types

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies FGM in four categories: type I, clitoridectomy; type II, excision; type III, infibulation and type IV, [UN English version] “all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area” (UN 31 Jan. 2018). For further information on the forms of FGM in the DRC and the WHO’s former classification of FGM, including the practice of the ritual elongation of the labia minora, see Response to Information Request COD104024 of April 2012.

1.3 Prevalence

Sources report that according to the WHO, the prevalence of FGM in the DRC is approximately five percent (Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019; IPU n.d.). However, a statistical overview from the UNHCR published in February 2013 indicates that according to the WHO, [UN English version] “the figure of 5% mentioned in a WHO publication in 1997 was a questionable estimate” (UN Feb. 2013, 4). A map of the FGM prevalence rates in Africa for women aged 15 to 49, currently available on the WHO website, indicates either that data on FGM is missing for the DRC or that FGM is not [UN English version] “widely practised” there (UN n.d.).

The US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 indicates that there were no reports of FGM that year (US 3 Mar. 2017, 31). However, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee Against Torture both note that FGM is still practised in some parts of the country (UN 3 June 2019, para. 34; UN 28 Feb. 2017, para. 27). According to the lawyer, it is [translation] “common, especially in rural areas” (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. 

2. Regions and Ethnic Groups

Information on the regions and ethnic groups of the DRC in which FGM is practised was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a former office manager of the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation [1] in the DRC reported, without providing further details, that according to UNICEF and some women’s organizations, FGM is practised in some regions of the country, by certain ethnic groups, in accordance with their customs and traditions (Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019). The lawyer specified that FGM is related to customs, not religion, and that ethnic groups in the former Orientale province [present-day provinces of Bas-Uélé, Haut-Uélé, Ituri and Tshopo] are among those that practise FGM (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019). Meanwhile, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child notes that it is still practised in Mweso, in North Kivu (UN 28 Feb. 2017, para. 27).

The lawyer also mentioned that FGM is practised in the former Équateur province [present-day provinces of Équateur, Nord-Ubangi, Sud-Ubangi, Mongala and Tshuapa] (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019). However, according to the 2014 Gender Country Profile for the DRC [2], FGM has been in [Davis, et al. English version] “sharp decline” in the former province of Équateur because local people have been educated through campaigns, awareness raising and training about the health, social and economic impact of this practice (Davis, et al. 2014, 42).

Sources indicate that FGM is practised in certain areas of the former province of Bandundu [present-day provinces of Kwango, Kwilu and Mai-Ndombe], of the Kasaï provinces (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019; PourElle.info 27 Nov. 2018) and in the province of Katanga (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019).

Sources indicate that FGM is practised by the Baluba [singular: Luba] (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019; Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019; PourElle.info 27 Nov. 2018) in the former provinces of Orientale, Équateur and Bandundu, as well as in the two Kasaï provinces (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019). Sources also state that it is practised by the Bapende [singular: Pende] (Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019; PourElle.info 27 Nov. 2018), specifically in Gungu, in the province of Kwilu (PourElle.info 27 Nov. 2018). Information on FGM practised by the Luba and Bapende could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. According to the DRC's Migration Directorate (Direction générale de migration), the Luba and Bapende are Bantu ethnic groups (DRC n.d.). According to the lawyer, FGM is also practised among the Mongo [a Bantu group (DRC n.d.)] and the Basonge, among others (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Consequences of Refusal

Information on the consequences of refusing FGM in the DRC was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. According to the lawyer, who explained that women engage in the practice in order to find a husband, older women pass along the tradition to younger women, but husbands sometimes require it from their spouses (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019). The former office manager at the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation stated that, as it is a tradition or a custom, the decision of whether a person must be subjected to FGM is made by the community and the family (Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019).

Sources state that the mutilation is practised when the woman is a [translation] “girl” (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019; Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019), generally at 14 years old (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019).

The lawyer added that a woman who refuses FGM might be mocked by other women or divorced by her husband (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. State Protection
4.1 Legislation and Its Enforcement

Act No. 06/018 of 20 July 2006, to Amend and Complete the 30 January 1940 Order on the Congolese Criminal Code (Loi no 06/018 du 20 juillet 2006 modifiant et complétant le Décret du 30 janvier 1940 portant Code pénal congolais) provides the following:

[translation]

Article 3

Paragraph 7: On genital mutilation

Article 174 g

Anyone who engages in a practice that damages the physical or functional integrity of a person’s genitalia will be sentenced to a term of two to five years and a fine of two hundred thousand constant Congolese francs [approximately C$161].

When the mutilation causes death, the sentence is life imprisonment. (DRC 2006, Art. 3, para. 7)

Sources nevertheless report that there is no law that explicitly forbids FGM in the DRC (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019; Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019). In June 2019, the UN Committee Against Torture recommended that the DRC adopt legislation criminalizing the practice of FGM and bring the perpetrators to justice (UN 3 June 2019, para. 35). However, according to the former Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation office manager, although “[t]here is no specific law against FGM … the [DRC] has a very complete law against sexual and gender-based violence, [which can include this type of practice] as [a form of] violence” (Kvinna till Kvinna 19 Aug. 2019). For further information on the enforcement of this act on the practice of labia elongation, see Response to Information Request COD104024 of April 2012.

Law No. 09/001 of 10 January 2009 on Child Protection (Loi no 09/001 du 10 janvier 2009 portant protection de l’enfant) states:

[translation]

Article 153

The genital mutilation of a child is subject to a punishment of two to five years in prison and a fine of two hundred thousand to one million Congolese francs.

When genital [mutilation] results in the unintended death of the child, the offender shall be punished by imprisonment of 10 to 20 years.

Genital mutilation is an act that that damages the physical or functional integrity of the genitalia.

Circumcision is neither genital mutilation nor an act that damages physical integrity. (DRC 2009, Art. 153)

Regarding this section of the law, the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (Secrétariat d’État aux migrations, SEM) states that [translation] “circumcision is excluded from the scope of the act, without it or the case law clarifying if this act includes its female equivalent, namely the excision of the labia minora” (Switzerland 15 Jan. 2016, 10).

The lawyer stated that a person who refuses to be excised or to have their daughter excised could turn to the courts for protection, while also noting that [translation] “justice is expensive” (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019). Corroborating information and information on the enforcement of the above acts could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4.2 Support Services

Information on support services provided to people who refuse to submit to FGM or to submit their child to it was not found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. According to the lawyer, the state does not offer such support services and NGOs have limited means that do not enable them to carry out legal proceedings (Lawyer 19 Aug. 2019).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation is a Swedish organization that promotes women’s rights in conflict-affected countries, such as the DRC, by supporting local organizations (Kvinna till Kvinna n.d.a), promoting research and doing advocacy work at the national, regional and international level (Kvinna till Kvinna n.d.b).

[2] A document commissioned by the Swedish embassy, in collaboration with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the EU Delegation and the Embassy of Canada, in Kinshasa (Davis, et al. 2014, cover page).

References

Davis, Laura, Paola Fabbri and Ilot Muthaka Alphonse. 2014. République démocratique du Congo - RDC 2014: Profil du pays en matière d'égalité de genre. [Accessed 23 Aug. 2019]

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 2009. Loi n° 09/001 du 10 janvier 2009 portant protection de l’enfant. [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019]

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 2006. Loi n° 06/018 du 20 juillet 2006 modifiant et complétant le Décret du 30 janvier 1940 portant Code pénal congolais. [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019]

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). N.d. Ministère de l'Intérieur et Sécurité, Direction générale de migration. “Connaître la RDC.” [Accessed 22 Aug. 2019]

European Union (EU). 10 July 2019. European Asylum Support Office (EASO). Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): 1. Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Including: Conflict Related Sexual Violence, Sexual and Domestic Violence, Trafficking, Traditional Harmful Practices, 2. Legal Framework (National Legislation and International Instruments) and Implementation, 3. State Actors of Protection, 4. Social Perception and Non-State Actors of Protection. COI Query. (Q12) [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019]

Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). N.d. “Législation et autres textes de droit interne : Pays-Bas, Pérou, Pologne, République centrafricaine, République démocratique du Congo, République unie de Tanzanie, Royaume-Uni, Rwanda, Sao-Tomé-et-Principe, Sénégal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalie, Soudan, Sri Lanka, Suède, Suisse, Suriname, Swaziland.” Campagne parlementaire "halte à la violence contre les femmes": les mutilations sexuelles féminines. [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019]

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation (Kvinna till Kvinna). 19 August 2019. Correspondence to the Research Directorate from a former office manager in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation (Kvinna till Kvinna). N.d.a. “Kvinna till Kvinna: Where We Work.” [Accessed 23 Aug. 2019]

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation (Kvinna till Kvinna). N.d.a. “Kvinna till Kvinna: What We Do.” [Accessed 23 Aug. 2019]

Lawyer, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 19 August 2019. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

PourElle.info. 27 November 2018. Marleine Bampemb’ambi. “Les mutilations génitales se pratiquent aussi en République démocratique du Congo.” [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019]

Switzerland. 15 January 2016. Secrétariat d’État aux migrations (SEM). Focus RD Congo : situation des femmes seules à Kinshasa. [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019]

United Nations (UN). 3 June 2019. Committee Against Torture. Concluding Observations on the Second Periodic Report of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (CAT/C/COD/CO/2) [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019]

United Nations (UN). 31 January 2018. World Health Organization (WHO). “Mutilations sexuelles féminines.” [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019]

United Nations (UN). 28 February 2017. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Observations finales concernant le rapport de la République démocratique du Congo valant troisième et cinquième rapports périodiques. (CRC/C/COD/CO/3-5) [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019]

United Nations (UN). February 2013. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Trop de souffrance : mutilations génitales féminines et asile dans l’Union européenne. Une analyse statistique. [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019]

United Nations (UN). N.d. World Health Organization (WHO). “Santé sexuelle et reproductive : Prévalence des mutilations sexuelles féminines.” [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019]

United States (US). 3 March 2017. Department of State. “Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016. [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Comité des observateurs des droits de l’homme; Comité national femme et développement; Dynamique des femmes juristes; Fonds pour les femmes congolaises; HEAL Africa (US); Synergie des femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles; Women for Women International.

Internet sites, including: 28 Too Many; L’Aménagement linguistique dans le monde; Amnesty International; Center for Gender and Refugee Studies; ecoi.net; Ethnologue; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; Minority Rights Group International; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – Social Institutions and Gender Index; Political Handbook of the World; Safe Hands for Girls; UN – UN Women, UNICEF.