U.N. Officials Call For Renewed Effort To Stop Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

U.N. officials on Sunday called for countries to renew their commitment to end female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), a practice which endangers the lives of women and girls, Inter Press Service reports (Deen, 2/7).

FGM/C “is the partial or total removal of the external genitalia – undertaken for cultural or other non-medical reasons – often causing severe pain and sometimes resulting in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death,” the U.N. News Centre writes. “Genital cutting can produce complications during child birth, increasing the chances of death or disability for both mother and child,” the news service adds (2/6).

Nafissatou Diop, coordinator of the Joint U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA)-UNICEF Programme on FGM/C, estimates “up to three million girls [per] year are cut in Africa alone” and “up to 140 million women and girls have already undergone the practice,” IPS continues (2/7).

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin issued a joint statement to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, where they called for renewed emphasis on curbing its practice. “We call on the global community to join us in this critical effort. Together, we can abolish FGM/C in one generation and help millions of girls and women to live healthier, fuller lives,” they said (2/6).

According to IPS, joint efforts by UNICEF and UNFPA, to educate communities about the harmful effects of FGM/C “have resulted in over 6,000 communities abandoning the physically-harmful practice in countries such as Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea and Somalia” since the effort was started in 2008 (2/7).

The UNICEF-UNDP “programme is anchored in human rights and involves all groups within a community, including religious leaders and young girls themselves. Rather than condemn FGM/C, it encourages collective abandonment to avoid alienating those that practice it and instead bring about their voluntary renunciation,” U.N. News Centre writes. “Social norms and cultural practices are changing, and women and men in communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls. UNFPA and UNICEF are working with partners to end this harmful practice in one generation and we believe that reaching this goal is possible,” the U.N. chiefs said, according to the news service (2/6).

IPS provides a breakdown of reduced prevalence of the practice in Ethiopia, Kenya and Senegal, and highlights other regions of the world where FGM/C takes place (2/7).

In related news, the Observer/Guardian reports on an effort to educate people in Africa about the harm of FGM/C through music. The article describes how “Sister Fa, a Senegalese urban soul and hip-hop star … has been lending her voice to a remarkable new drive against female circumcision in 12 of the countries worst affected by the practice across the continent” (McVeigh, 2/6).

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