An additional two million girls are at a higher risk of undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the coming ten years with the Covid 19 pandemic increasing the risk of the unholy practice.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2018 estimated that about 68 million girls would face Female Genital Mutilation by 2030. With Covid 19 pandemic adversely affecting the whole world, the UN Agency says an additional two million girls are at risk. With this projection, various agencies and leaders called out for fighting against the FGM.
In a joint statement UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said “we must act now to stop this from happening.”
The leaders made the call on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. The day falls on February 6. The United Nations General Assembly in 2012 declared February 6 as the International Day. The International day aims at amplifying and directing the efforts on elimination of FGM. The theme of 2021 is “No Time for Global Inaction, Unite, Fund, and Act to End Female Genital Mutilation.”
Fore and Kanem said that ending FGM required collaboration among a wide group of stakeholders. This includes policy makers, civil society from small grass-roots organizations, women’s right groups, teachers, health workers, religious leaders, local leaders and law enforcement officials. They noted that men also have a crucial role in this.
The two leaders pointed out that the progress needs to increase ten-fold even in countries where FGM is declining for meeting the global target of elimination by 2030. They said that an amount of 2.4 billion dollar was needed in ten years. This comes to less than 100 dollars per girl. Calling for immediate action, Fore and Kanem said “we need to ensure that girls have access to education, health care including sexual and reproductive health services – and livelihoods.” They need protection by laws, policies and new social norms, the leaders said.
“Let us encourage the leadership skills of adolescent girls and their male peers and inspire their power to speak out and say “enough” to all forms of violence, including violent assaults on their bodies,” they said in the statement.
“The same interventions that will end FGM will also support the power and agency of girls and women to exercise their human rights, reach their potential and contribute fully to their communities and futures. The elimination of FGM and gender equality are interdependent, mutually reinforcing goals. Simply put, if gender equality were a reality, there would be no female genital mutilation. This is the world we envision, and the Sustainable Development Goals chart the path to get us there….It is time to unite around proven strategies, fund them adequately and act,” they said in the statement.
Female Genital Mutilation is a practice based on gender inequalities. It rests on foundations of faulty beliefs, inferred expectations and perceived obligations. The process endangers the health of women and girls. This can lead to long term physical, psychological and social consequences. Internationally accepted as a violation of the human rights, FGM is only for non-medical reasons.
Though the practice is much concentrated in Africa and the Middle East, it is a universal issue. Some countries in Asia and Latin America also practice this.