International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM
February 6, 2015 – The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutiliation (FGM), also known as Female Genital Cutting (FGC), has been designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the dangers of the practice. FGC is the intentional invasive injuring of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is a painful damaging of the genitals aimed at subduing women, an extreme form of discrimination against women that reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. It has been recognised as a severe violation of the rights of women and girls.
Female Genital Cutting happens mainly in Africa (in 28 countries), and in a few countries in the Middle East. It has also been practiced on a small scale in South-East Asia and among certain ethnic groups in Central and South America as well as among immigrants in Europe. It is estimated that 130 million women and girls have been affected. In addition to causing severe pain, FGC can result in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and death. Some forms necessitate surgery later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth. In some communities repeated FGC, sometimes with stitching, is done following childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing both immediate and long-term risks. The practice is still widespread in spite of a global commitment to end FGC by 2010 following the 2002 UN Special Session on Children.
The cutting is mostly done by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18 per cent of all FGC is performed by health care providers, and the trend towards medicalisation is increasing. This constitutes a great threat to the abandonment of the practice. While communities may justify it on various cultural and social grounds, it is harmful medically, is a violation of rights, and is illegal in many countries. It is for this reason that Amref Health Africa condemns it and calls upon governments and partners to increase efforts to eliminate it.
Leah, a 16 year old from Shompole in Kenya, has completed her rite of passage into womanhood without being cut.
Amref Health Africa has implemented programs to eliminate FGC since 2007, including regional programs across East Africa and Ethiopia. Amref Health Africa’s innovative anti-FGC work, especially the community-led Alternative Rites of Passage, has been widely recognised as safe and acceptable to the community.
On this International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, Amref Health Africa renews its commitment to working hand in hand with governments, development partners and civil society organisations to:
- Explore innovative ways of engaging the communities to accelerate the abandonment of FGC and to inform programming in working with communities
- Work hand in hand with relevant bodies and institutions to build skills of frontline health workers in dealing with the effects of FGC
- Mobilize health workers against medicalisation of FGC
- Increase health education and health promotion among girls and women
Amref Health Africa realises that governments are solely responsible for ensuring the right to health for their citizenry and commits to supporting the governments to meet this objective. To that extent, Amref Health Africa urges governments as well as their development partners to meet the following obligations for accelerating the abandonment of FGC:
- Allocate adequate resources to support the abandonment of FGC and increase the empowerment of women and adolescents
- Ensure frontline workers are knowledgeable and skilled in the care of FGC-related complications
- Support the implementation of innovative approaches to engage communities towards abandonment of FGC
- Invest in research to understand the underlying factors that cause FGC to thrive