“FGM scars girls for life – endangering their health, depriving them of their rights and the chance to reach their full potential. #EndFGM” – Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund)
It seems unimaginable – a young girl, frequently below the age of five, is subjected to a procedure that removes or significantly alters her genitalia for non-medical reasons. The procedure is painful and leaves her at risk of infection, as well as significantly increasing complications in future pregnancies and births.
And yet it happens to hundreds of thousands of girls around the world every year. The United Nations regards these procedures, known as female genital mutilation (FGM) as a violation of the human rights of women and girls.
From the UN, some key facts about the state of FGM around the world today:
- Globally, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.
- If current trends continue, 15 million additional girls between ages 15 and 19 will be subjected to it by 2030.
- Girls 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in Gambia at 56 per cent, Mauritania 54 per cent and Indonesia where around half of girls aged 11 and younger have undergone the practice.
- Countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15 to 49 are Somalia 98 per cent, Guinea 97 per cent and Djibouti 93 per cent.
- 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.
The UN and many other organizations are working hard to understand and work with the cultural taboos that trigger FGM in the first place. UNICEF and UNFPA are leading culturally sensitive community outreach programs to help local leaders understand the risks of FGM and use human rights principles to convince communities to work together to end the practice.
At the same time, governments are introducing legislation to ban FGM. For example, The Gambia recently enacted new laws and now there is much work to implement the end of this harmful action. Other countries like Burkina Faso, Kenya, Liberia and Togo have made significant reductions in the incidence of FGM.
While the top priority is to end FGM in the countries where it occurs the most, FGM is also increasing in countries like the Great Britain and the United States. In the U.S., FGM was made illegal in 1996, but data suggests that cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and St. Paul-Minneapolis have significant at-risk populations.
Take Action Challenge
Telling people that FGM exists and must be stopped is essential. Share this article on your social networks and tell your community about zero tolerance for FGM.
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Lead photo is from the UNICEF video on FGM.