Following the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, held on 6 February 2016, IFSW continues to support this initiative. Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It has now been incorporated into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with a target to eliminate this practice by 2030.
As noted by the UN, FGM 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. FGM can also cause severe bleeding and health issues, including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth.
To promote the abandonment of FGM, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed, which must crucially engage whole communities and focus on human rights and gender equality. These efforts should emphasise societal dialogue and the empowerment of communities to act collectively to end the practice. At the same time there is need to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.
It is estimated that globally at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM and that if current trends continue, 15 million additional girls between ages 15 and 19 will be subjected to it by 2030. Countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15 to 49, with over 90% affected, are Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti, although there are a wide range of countries involved in this practice, some of which are also in the developed world.
Girls aged 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.
Social workers globally take a stand to end this practice that violates the human rights of women and girls in the most fundamental way. Although validating and supporting cultural practices and promoting diversity are integral to social work values, this particular practice must end. IFSW supports social workers working with women and girls who have undergone this procedure and welcomes a growing determination around the world to eliminate FGM and support victims of this form of gender-based violence.
Fact sheet on FGM: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/
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IFSW Human Rights Commissioner