Sunday, 6 February 2022, marks a decade of celebrating the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. One of the most prevalent, persistent, and destructive human rights violations is Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the forms in which VAWG manifests.
FGM refers to any procedure that involves removing or injuring the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Often FGM is executed under unhygienic conditions, resulting in short-term health problems such as intense pain, shock, severe bleeding, and infections, along with long-term repercussions for the sexual and mental well-being of the victim.
Globally, millions of women have been subjected to FGM while still young. The practise of FGM is widespread worldwide, although it is predominant primarily in 30 African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. In Somalia alone, it affects 98% of women. Even though it is illegal in the European Union, more than 500,000 women across Europe have been subjected to FGM.
Why do people practise FGM?
FGM has become a significant part of the cultural individuality of girls and women in nations where it is performed. It is part of a coming-of-age ritual for some societies. The practice may persist due to the desire to have a good marriage. Some communities use it to restrain sexual passion.
After migration and displacement, newly formed groups may adopt FGM. In periods of intensive social change, maintaining ethnic identity may also be imperative to distinguish between groups.
How can we end FGM?
- Education: People can identify their rights concerning FGM with a dynamic and open approach. Various traditional communication methods can be used in classes and workshops, including theatre, poetry, dance, music, and storytelling. An environment of confidence, trust, and openness can help schools offer a forum for learning and discussion.
- Media: The role of the media is crucial in delivering accurate information to homes and educating people about positive change, which is essential. Social media campaigns can be highly beneficial; even the survivors of FGM can share their stories on social media platforms like YouTube or podcast experiences. It may lead to awareness among people, encouraging them to fight against this disdainful practice.
- Health care provider: To prevent FGM, health care providers can support and inform patients and communities about its harmful effects. To help women understand the impact of FGM, we need to teach them about their reproductive and sexual health. Furthermore, health professionals can also offer outreach programs, such as schools and community health education.
- Supporting NGOs: National and international non-governmental organizations have played a vital role in designing and implementing programs to eradicate FGM. Governments and development agencies have played a significant role in supporting and participating in successful programs. YUVA is dedicated to eradicating FGM and making a difference in the lives of African children and young people living in poverty.
- United Nations: The UN promotes and conducts research with universities and development agencies to establish global standards. As a result, standards are founded on solid proof. United Nations agencies are uniquely positioned to promote interaction and collaboration with all. Several UN bodies are responsible for promoting and safeguarding human rights.
UNFPA-UNICEF joint venture to eradicate FGM
UNFPA and UNICEF have been leading the world’s most extensive global campaign to eradicate FGM since 2008. As part of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme, the two organizations leverage their expertise in collaboration with governments, community organizations, and other decision-makers. Social science research underpins the program.
The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme has been funded in 17 countries; 14 prohibit FGM in institutional and legislative frameworks. According to public statements, FGM has been declared a human rights issue at every level. There have been over 1368 cases of law backing and arrests to date. Over 42.5 million people in over 30,182 communities have publicly declared their opposition to FGM. FGM prevention radio and television programs reached 69.6 million people. The Joint Programme has raised awareness and galvanized a global movement on FGM issues and has elevated the FGM issue in several international and national political processes.
FGM has affected over 200 million girls. In 2021, approximately 4.2 million girls were mutilated. If no accelerated action is taken, 68 million girls are appraised to be cut between 2015 and 2030 in 25 countries where FGM is habitually practised. UNFPA estimates that 2 million FGMs will occur in the next decade due to program interruptions related to COVID-19.
Over the last 13 years, the Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation has actively contributed to the global acceleration of FGM eradication. In 2018, UNFPA and UNICEF continued their collaborative efforts by methodically integrating complementary initiatives under a new period of the Joint Programme. UNFPA and UNICEF urge all stakeholders to contribute additional funding to support the Joint Programme. It will enable them to keep up with the global movement towards eliminating FGM by 2030.
To create change, all levels of COVID-19 decision-making must include women and girls. In addition to accelerating the elimination of FGM, ensuring equitable access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities provides the advancement of all women and girls. There is no time for global inaction. We must unite, educate, and act to end FGM once and for all.
Payal Mathur, YUVA Intern and PhD Research Scholar, Amity University, Rajasthan, India