By: Rachel Kakraba
February 6, 2023 marks the 12th anniversary of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, FGM.
The day which was established by the UN General Assembly in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, provides the opportunity for Governments, Member States, Civil Society Organizations, development partners, activists, and other relevant stakeholders to raise awareness, renew commitments and reiterate that FGM is an unacceptable harmful practice and a violation of women and girls’ basic human rights.
This year’s event is themed “Partnership with Men and Boys to Transform Social and Gender Norms to End Female Genital Mutilation”.
With the UN projecting some 4.2 million girls to be at risk of being subjected to FGM in 2023, the clarion call is for men and boys to be more educated to disapprove the barbaric practice and domestic violence that women and girls are made to go through.
In 2012, the UN General Assembly designated February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, with the aim to amplify and direct the efforts to eliminate the practice.
FGM comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women.
Girls who undergo FGM face short-term complications such as severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections, and difficulty in passing urine, as well as long-term consequences with sexual, reproductive and mental health.
Although primarily concentrated in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, FGM is a universal problem and is also practiced in some countries in Asia and Latin America.
FGM continues to persist amongst immigrant populations living in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Over the last 25 years, the prevalence of FGM has declined globally.
Today, a girl is one-third less likely to undergo FGM than 30 years ago. However, sustaining these achievements in the face of humanitarian crises such as disease outbreaks, climate change, armed conflict and more could cause a rollback of progress toward achieving gender equality and the elimination of FGM by 2030.
To promote the elimination of the practice, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed, to engage communities and focus on human rights, gender equality, sexual education and attention to the needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.
In a statement to commemorate the day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, calls for urgent investments and action to reach the Sustainable Development Goals target of eliminating FGM by 2030.
He said it is rooted in the same gender inequalities and complex social norms that limit women’s participation and leadership and restrict their access to education and employment.
This discrimination he says, damages society and calls for urgent action by the whole of society to end it. He said this year’s theme recognizes that men and boys, brothers, fathers, health workers, teachers, and traditional leaders can be powerful allies to end FGM.