The UN Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA, says Nigeria and The Gambia are among the countries that have outlawed the harmful practice of female genital mutilation.
The UNFPA, in a report on the of 2017 International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, commemorated on February 6, stressed the urgent need to abandon the practice.
Female genital mutilation refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and it is a deeply entrenched social and cultural norm in many societies.
“With the support of UNFPA and other UN agencies, many countries have passed legislation banning FGM – including, in 2015, Nigeria and The Gambia – and developed national policies to achieve its abandonment.”
“Girls aged 14 and younger represent about 44 million of those who have undergone female genital mutilation.
“Around the world, 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of female genital mutilation.
“Female genital mutilation is a deeply entrenched cultural with devastating medical, social, emotional, legal and economic repercussions for young girls and women.
“Female genital mutilation is a violation of the human rights of women and girls, and a form of gender-based violence that must end now,” the UN population fund said.
UNFPA said the practice could cause short and long-term health complications, including chronic pain, infections, increased risk of HIV transmission, anxiety and depression, birth complications, infertility and, in the worst cases, death.
“It is internationally recognised as an extreme violation of the rights of women and girls.
“Female genital mutilation violates human rights principles and standards – including the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex, the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the rights of the child, and the right to physical and mental integrity, and even the right to life.”
UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, leads the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of female genital mutilation, it said.
According to it, the programme currently focuses on 17 African countries and also supports regional and global initiatives.
To promote the abandonment of the harmful practice, UNFPA said coordinated and systematic efforts were needed, and they must engage whole communities and focus on human rights and gender equality.
“Collective abandonment, in which a whole community chooses to no longer engage in female genital mutilation, is an effective way to end the practice.
“It ensures that no single girl or family will be disadvantaged by the decision. Many experts hold that female genital mutilation will only end through collective abandonment.”
The UN agency added that such efforts must also address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.
It regretted what it termed the medicalisation of the female genital mutilation, calling it a disturbing trend.
“About one in five girls who have been subjected to female genital mutilation had the procedure performed by a trained medical professional. In some countries, this number is as high as three in four girls.
“Female genital mutilation can never be ‘safe’ and there is no medical justification for the practice. Even when the procedure is performed in a sterile environment and by a health care professional, there can be serious health consequences immediately and later in life.
“Medicalised female genital mutilation gives a false sense of security. Trained health professionals who perform female genital mutilation are violating girls’ and women’s right to life, right to physical integrity and right to health.
“They are also violating the fundamental medical mandate to “do no harm,” and it represents a threat to efforts to abandon the practice,” the UN agency warned.
UNFPA said it is working to mobilise health workers, including midwives, to resist social pressure to perform the harmful practice, and serve as advocates for prevention and protection in the communities they serve.
In 2012, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the first-ever resolution against female genital mutilation, calling for intensified global efforts to eliminate the practice.
In 2015, female genital mutilation was included in the Sustainable Development Goals under Target 5.3, which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices.