“Health systems and health professionals are essential to the wellbeing of societies. They provide credible, scientific and unbiased information that can help people protect themselves from violations of their rights. “
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
In Mauritania, the National Association of Midwives has publicly declared their opposition to FGM and their pledge to abandon the practice in the communities they serve. Photo credit: UNFPA Mauritania
- Over 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.
- If current trends continue, about 86 million additional girls worldwide will be subjected to the practice by 2030.
- FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
- FGM cause severe bleeding and health issues including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths.
- FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons – , and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.
Although primarily concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, FGM is a universal problem and is also practiced in some countries in Asia and Latin America. FGM continues to persist amongst immigrant populations living in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Though the practice has persisted for over a thousand years, programmatic evidence suggests that FGM/C can end in one generation. UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, leads the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of FGM. The programme currently focuses on 17 African countries and also supports regional and global initiatives.
On 20 December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/67/146 in which it
“Calls upon States, the United Nations system, civil society and all stakeholders to continue to observe 6 February as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and to use the day to enhance awareness- raising campaigns and to take concrete actions against female genital mutilations”.
In December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted without a vote Resolution A/RES/69/150 “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations”, callling upon member States to develop, support and implement comprehensive and integrated strategies for the prevention of FGM including training of medical personnel, social workers and community and religious leaders to ensure they provide competent, supportive services and care to women and girls who are at risk of or who have undergone FGM. The resolution also acknowledges that intensifying efforts for the elimination of FGM is needed, and in this regard, the importance of giving the issue due consideration in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda.
Although the practice of FGM cannot be justified by medical reasons, in many countries it is executed more and more often by medical professionals, which constitutes ones of the greatest threats to the abandonment of the practice. A recent analysis of existing data shows that more than 18% of all girls and women who have been subjected to FGM have had the procedure performed by a health-care provider and in some countries this rate is as high as 74%.
Recognizing the importance of engaging health workers in the effort to end FGM, the 2015 International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation will be marked under the theme “Mobilization and Involvement of Health Personnel to Accelerate Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation”.
The upcoming 2014 Annual Report “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Accelerating change” underlines the work of several countries which have started to train and sensitize health workers to the issue of FGM, including Mauritania, Yemen, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, Uganda, Egypt and Eritrea.