Throughout the year, there are many International Days. Do you know for what February 6 is dedicated for?

Unicef-Ethiopia

Photo courtesy of UNICEF-Ethiopia

The answer: February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Elimination (FGM). You may wonder why this day is important for us.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), FGM “comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. The practice can cause both short- and long-term health complications, including chronic pain, infections, increased risk of HIV transmission, anxiety and depression, birth complication, infertility and, in the worst cases, death. As such, internationally, FGM is recognized as a violation of human rights, health and integrity of women and girls. Globally, it is estimated that between 100 million to 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.

FGM is misunderstood as a practice based on religious obligations, however, these practices have been observed across multiple religions in various countries. Therefore, this is rather social and culturally-entrenched practice and manifestation of gender inequality which intends to control sexuality of women and girls.

While the majority of those affected by FGM live in 29 countries in Africa and Western Asia, there are certain populations practicing FGM also in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Columbia, now this harmful practice is spreading also in Australia, Western Europe and North America due to migration. According to the Population Reference Bureau’s data from 2013 survey, up to 507,000 women and girls in the US who had undergone FGM or were at risk of the procedure. In Europe, it is estimated that 180,000 girls and women are at risk of FGM each year according to End FGM European Network. 

Thus, FGM is not any more a story of women and girls suffering in a distant country, but someone from your neighborhood might have undergone or are at risk. It is a global problem that requires global efforts to eradicate it. In September 2015, at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, 193 states unanimously agreed to a new global target of eliminating FGM by 2030. Therefore, this is a global commitment and shared responsibility for all of us. On February 6, let us affirm that there is no place for FGM in the future we are striving to create –a future where every girl will grow up able to experience her inherent dignity, human rights and equality by 2030.

Lastly, here is the link to the short animation on “Abandoning FGM: Amina and Desta’s story” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LKk3vyFyGA&noredirect=1). You can use this to spread the message to work together to end this harmful practice of FGM. This is one small action you can do not just on February 6, which can lead to one big step forward to protect human rights and dignity of our women and girls.

Eri Taniguchi
Advisory Committee Member, Rukmini Foundation

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