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UN Seeks Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 9 2016 (IPS) - The United Nations says it is determined to end female genital mutilation (FGM) – a ritual practiced mostly in Africa, the Middle East, parts of Asia and even among some migrant communities in Europe.

And the world body’s determination is being backed with facts, figures — and a global campaign by a Joint Programme against FGM initiated by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

As the world body commemorated International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “I am proud to be among so many champions in the cause of eliminating female genital mutilation.”

Since 2007, more than a dozen countries have enacted measures to tackle FGM and more than 950 legal cases have been prosecuted.

“And today, nearly all countries where it is prevalent outlaw the practice. We are working to extend that legal protection everywhere,” he said.

As of now, more than 110,000 doctors, nurses and midwives have received training on the need to eliminate the practice.

The number of women benefiting from valuable services supported by the UN’s Joint Programme more than doubled over the past year — to over 820,000.

And over the last ten years, budgeting to fight FGM has increased by 600 percent, according to the United Nations.

By 2011, the African Union led the way calling for a General Assembly resolution to eliminate FGM. By 2012, UN established an International Day (Feb 6) for Zero Tolerance for FGM.

The New York Times said last week that FGM – also described as female circumcision of mostly young girls — is not just an African problem but also a growing practice in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.

Virtually all countries that practice FGM say it is either a cultural or a religious ritual handed down over many generations.

But Rena Herdiyani, vice chair of Kalyanamitra, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Indonesia, thinks it’s a myth.

She is not only lobbying against FGM but also wants the government to punish those who perform female circumcision.

“They think it’s a family or a cultural tradition, and an Islamic obligation, yet they can’t name any verses in the Quran about female circumcision,” she was quoted as saying.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. “But the procedure has no health benefits for girls and women”.

Ban said that in his 9-year tenure as Secretary-General, he has helped achieve impressive results.

“In my first year, 2007, we held a first-of-its-kind global consultation on FGM. Experts took a hard look at the problem – and came up with effective solutions.”

The next year, 2008, 10 UN agencies signed a statement on eliminating FGM. The Commission on the Status of Women and the World Health Assembly also took action.

At the same time, the UNFPA and UNICEF launched the Joint Programme to help communities quickly abandon this practice.

In 2009, Ban’s report to the General Assembly on the Girl Child called for social change to drive FGM abandonment.

The next year, the UN established a global strategy against harmful medicalization. “I also launched my ‘Every Woman Every Child’ movement which has mobilized partners who are getting concrete results,” Ban said.

And more than 15,000 communities where some 12 million people live are committed to ending FGM.

According to UNICEF’s new statistical report, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries.

The report says half of the girls and women, who have been cut, live in three countries — Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Moreover, girls aged 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut. In most of the countries the majority of girls were cut before reaching their fifth birthdays
Ban thanked the many religious leaders joining this cause. More and more men and boys are speaking out. Somali Men Against FGM has its own Facebook page. One wrote: “We say collectively: Don’t Do it FOR US”.

Let us make a world where FGM stands for Focus on Girls’ Minds, he said and posted the question: “How about this: FGM stands for Focus on Girls Minds.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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  • Stormwatch

    Meanwhile, male genital mutilation is “sacred” and “cultural” and “must be respected”.

  • Jen Petrus

    How disgustingly sexist. You can’t be taken seriously trying to end FGM, while PROMOTING the spread of MGM with your other hand. Efforts to wipe out FGM will be significantly less effective while practitioners of such see that you are hypocrites. The only way to truly make all girls safe from being cut is to commit to protect ALL children – female, male, and intersex – from routine or ritual genital cutting.

  • M.S.

    What about ALL genital mutilation? Boys deserve to have a choice to keep their WHOLE genitals intact as well! Cutting the genitals of ANY child without medical need IS MUTILATION!!!!

  • David Biviano

    How can a world body like the UN be so correct on ending the genital mutilation of girls and totally ignore the other half of the population?! Including intersex children!

  • thewatercarrier

    It’s hard to believe that any organisation could be so steadfast in it’s opposition to genital mutilation of one gender, and so blind to the suffering of the other. Mutilating babies genitals is horribly barbaric, regardless of gender. And a quick search on the internet will show you that male circumcision is just as bad, if not worse, than the most common type of female circumcision. All babies deserve our protection. The UN is becoming a joke, and I speak as one who was historically a big supporter of the UN.

  • Esme Pendergast

    Anyone in the US who wonders how a culture can mutilate their girls has only to look at our justifications for cosmetically altering our own infant boys’ genitals: “It’s traditional” “God told me to” “Our culture thinks intact genitals look funny” “He should fit in” “His dad was circumcised” These sound just like the justifications for cutting girls. Let all children keep their intact genitals.

  • HansC

    Germaine Greer, The Whole Woman (1999): “No UN agency has uttered a single protocol condemning the widespread practice of male genital mutilation, which will not be challenged until doctors start to be sued in large numbers by men they mutilated as
    infants…Silence about male mutilation in our own countries combines nicely with noisiness on female mutilation in other countries to reinforce our notions of cultural superiority.”

  • HansC

    “Virtually all countries that practice FGM say it is either a cultural or a religious ritual handed down over many generations.”

    And virtually without exception, they all practice male genital mutilation as well.

  • Amgine

    Of course we should abolish all genital mutilation. If someone wants to have their genitals operated on, it should be with their full informed consent when they are old enough to make the decision.

  • Stephen Bauer

    Now if the UN would only stop addressing HALF the problem and speak out against male genital mutilation as well….

  • Serenity Kate

    The huge difference is that male circumcision has more medical backup in terms of benefits and much more well known.