End FGM Logo - Photo Courtesy of United Nations website
CAIRO – 6 February 2018: “Sustainable development demands full human rights for all women and girls. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises an end to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practice by 2030.” – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Feb. 6 marks the annual International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, a practice that has harmed about 200 million girls and women alive today around the world, according to the U.N. Unfortunately, despite being globally condemned, girls are still at risk of going through this painful and humiliating procedure unless a positive momentum is built to intensify global action against this human rights violation for the sake of the future of all generations.
This year, the #MeToo campaign against sexual abuse urged people to come forward and use the hashtag #MeTooFGM on Tuesday to raise awareness about the ritual and to call for FGM to be included as a form of abuse against women.
On February 6th, Zero Tolerance Day on FGM, in partnership with our graduates and partners around the world, we are launching a Thunderclap amplify their work. Please join us at Share Show You Care EndFGM on href="https://twitter.com/ThunderclapIt?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ThunderclapIt // @GMCEndFGMhttps://t.co/CLUeFR9qlP
The international day was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012. Later in 2014, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a new resolution to intensify global efforts for the elimination of FGM. Moreover, in 2015, upon the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals
, the U.N. member states agreed to include a target calling for “the elimination of all harmful practices, such as FGM and child marriage.”
On this day, activists and human rights defenders from around the world come together to send a message calling for a systematic, coordinated and inclusive process to promote the abandonment of FGM. They also call for actions that focus on human rights and gender equality to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from FGM consequences or are at risk of going under the procedure.
Global calls are launched on this day to urge governments to enact and enforce laws and policies that protect the rights of girls and women and prevent FGM, to create a healthier, better world for all people. Activists also call for more research to be conducted to show people that there are others around the world who reject the practice.
What is FGM ?
FGM is a ritual that involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. The practice denies females their dignity, endangers their health, and causes needless pain and emotional trauma with consequences that endure for a lifetime and can even be fatal. The practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between sexes, constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls and denying them of ownership of their bodies. 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.
In 2017, the executive director of U.N. Women wrote a blog on the occasion of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, saying, “The cutting and sewing of a young child's private parts so that she is substantially damaged for the rest of her life, has no sensation during sex except probably pain, and may well face further damage when she gives birth, is to many an obvious and horrifying violation of that child's rights.”
She continued, “It makes a mockery of the idea of any part being truly private and underlines the institutionalized way in which decisions over her own body have been taken from that girl – one of some 200 million currently.”
FGM is regularly carried out on minors and young girls between infancy and age 15. It is classified into four major types, according to the UN:
• Clitoridectomy: Partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
• Excision: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" that surround the vagina).
• Infibulation: Narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner or outer labia with or without removal of the clitoris.
• Other: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
The phenomenon is a universal problem, despite its significant spread in Africa – especially the western, eastern and northeastern regions of Africa. It is also practiced in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Furthermore, the practice persists amongst immigrant populations living in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Causes for FGM practice?
According to the 2016 report by the UN Secretary-General, the main reason that FGM continues is “out of a desire for social acceptance and to avoid social stigma.” FGM is often justified for a mix of cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities. These reasons include social pressure to conform to what the community has been doing; considering FGM as a necessary part of raising a girl properly and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage; cultural ideals of modesty; and the power and authority of local structures, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers and even some medical personnel, who can contribute to upholding the practice.
Status of FGM in Egypt:
Egyptians inherited FGM from the pharaohs and are still practicing it. In 2006, Egypt launched its national anti-FGM strategy. One year later, the country recognized June 14 as the national day to combat FGM; the date was established to honor the 12-year-old “Bodour Shaker”, who died on the same date as a result of an FGM procedure.
In 2008, the FGM procedure was legally criminalized, while the FGM law was toughened in 2016, increasing its degree of crime from a misdemeanor to a felony, punishable by up to five to seven years in prison. According to a report published by the anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) national program sponsored by the National Population Council, the percentage of married women aged 15-49 who have been subjected to FGM dropped to 92 percent in 2014, while it was 97 percent in 2000 as a result of national campaigns and community initiatives to end FGM. The study and statistics from UNICEF also revealed that prevalence of FGM amongst the younger age groups is rather low, reaching 61 percent amongst females aged 15 - 17.
The government in Egypt has followed a holistic approach to end FGM, adopting a prevention and response agenda. On the prevention level, the Ministry of Health is heavily involved, as data from the Demographic and Health Survey revealed that 72 percent of the practice is conducted by medical doctors. The ministry launched a crackdown campaign on physicians proven to be complicit in performing FGM. Such medical practitioners faced intensified prison sentences. In addition, the government constantly works to bring on board all relevant actors to the fight to end FGM. These actors include education institutions and sensitizing curriculums to call for the abandonment of FGM and encourage community members and policymakers to abandon the practice.
Furthermore, for the first time in the history of Egypt, the Ministry of Health dedicated two hotlines for reporting FGM. The ministry also launched a campaign to distribute awareness cards about the dangers of FGM along with female vaccination cards throughout Egypt.