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International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly designated February 6, as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for female Genital Mutilation. This purpose of observing this day is to enhance the awareness on the issue of Female Genital Mutilation, and to encourage concrete actions against the practice.[1] This awareness however, was first introduced in 2003.[2]

Female Genital Mutilation: Still an Elephant in the Room

In basic terms, Female Genital Mutilation is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia.[3] The act, which is also called female circumcision or female genital cutting, is a traditional practice that is done purely on non-medical basis. It is stated that over 200 million girls and women alive have experienced Female Genital Mutilation and an estimated 3.9 million girls were cut in 2015. In 25 countries where FGM is routinely practiced and data are available, an estimated 68 million girls will be cut between 2015 and 2030 unless a concerted and accelerated action is taken.[4]

Female Genital Mutilation: Collective Efforts, Joint Programme, Giant Strides

The World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the United Nations Population Fund collectively agreed that Female Genital Mutilation is an inhumane practice. This consensus was drawn based on the presented health risks and human indignity that accompanies FGM. On the basis of this, the UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme came into existence. The joint programme harnesses the complimentary expertise of the two agencies, with governments and often in close collaboration with grass-roots community organizations and other key stakeholders, backed by the latest social science research.

Some of the notable achievements of the FGM Joint Programme include:

  • Provision of appropriate and quality services: More than 3.2 million girls and women in the 17 countries supported by the Joint Programme have benefited from FGM-related protection and care services.
  • Increased community-led engagement: As a result of community-led engagement through education, dialogue and consensus-building, more than 31.5 million individuals in over 21,700 communities have made public declarations on the abandonment of FGM.
  • Legal and policy frameworks: 13 countries supported by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme have legal and policy frameworks banning FGM. Following intensive capacity development initiatives, to date, there have been more than 900 cases of legal enforcement. Public statements at all levels have announced that FGM is a human right issue and must be stopped. Such statements provide the political backing required to strengthen the community-wide efforts and initiatives.
  • Government ownership: All 17 countries supported by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint programme have a national coordination mechanism in place to systematically engage all actors at the national level. Twelve countries established a national budget line funding services and programmes to specifically address FGM.

Female Genital Mutilation and Zero Tolerance: ‘Mission IsPossible’

The elimination of FGM is a key target under Goal 5, of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ of the United Nations concerted effort as regards this human rights violation. Awareness has been rising for FGM with constant pursuit of activism. The World Health Organization has said that “Though the practice has persisted for over a thousand years, programmatic evidence suggests that FGM/C can end in one generation.”[5]

The International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM is not a public holiday, but a day of international observation. The observance of FGM continues to be practiced every year on February 6th and will be greatly pursued by the UN and other social activism parties in efforts to eliminate FGM by the year 2030.

Some countries where FGM is frequently practiced, but currently have some form of written legislation concerning FGM or events surrounding FGM, such as deliberate harm to a child include; Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and others.


[1] UNFPA

[2] Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs, “Commemorating International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation” Archived 2010-02-13 at the Wayback Machine, Population Reference Bureau, February 2009

[3] Wikipedia

[4] UNFPA

[5] Wikipedia

Featured image source: thedailystar.net

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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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