The United Nations designated Friday as a worldwide day of zero tolerance on female genital mutilation. The call for an end to female genital mutilation follows a year-long awareness campaign that involved activists, the media, and lawmakers.
— UN Women (@UN_Women) February 7, 2015
— Say NO – UNiTE (@SayNO_UNiTE) February 6, 2015
The Guardian featured a breakdown of the past year’s celebrations and setbacks. In the UK, for example, the Girl Summit, hosted by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron, vowed to end the practice of female genital mutilation worldwide and “tackle the issue head on.” However, a doctor was found not guilty right in London of performing female genital mutilation as the UK fought against the practice worldwide.
Female genital mutilation involves any procedures from minor to major that involve altering the female genitalia for any reason that is not medical. According to the UN, female genital mutilation is recognized as a violation of human rights. The UN calls it a form of discrimination against women and girls, although forced male circumcision still takes place around the globe.
“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.”
The practice is over a thousand years old, but the UN and activists said Friday that female genital mutilation could realistically be brought to a halt within one generation. On the official day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation, the UN highlighted some key facts about the practice. Over 140 million girls and women currently alive have been forced to undergo some form of genital altering in a practice that is generally performed between infancy and a girl’s 15th birthday. Female genital mutilation — and male circumcision, according to the Stanford School of Medicine — can cause severe bleeding, cysts, infections, and even death. Female genital mutilation can cause girls to become infertile and can cause childbirth complications, resulting in an increased risk of infant death.
UNICEF also released a statement on female genital mutilation, urging health workers to do their part in stopping the practice.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) February 7, 2015
“Health workers also have a deep understanding of the harmful consequences of this practice. They see the urinary, menstrual, and obstetric complications — including hemorrhage, infection and death — caused by it. They also witness the emotional wounds FGM inflicts, trauma which often lasts a lifetime.
“Health workers are also uniquely well-positioned to lead the effort to resist a disturbing trend that has emerged in many countries: The medicalization of FGM. Around one in five girls have been cut by a trained health-care provider. In some countries, this can reach as high as three in four girls.”
According to UNICEF, while social norms “can exert tremendous power over people’s lives,” the practice of female genital mutilation can be stopped when “health workers, leaders, experts, and, most of all, girls and families, speak out and take action.”