"FGM is recognized internationally as a
violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects
deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of
discrimination against women. The practice violates a person’s rights to
health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure
results in death." – World
by Dora Vrdlovec UN Rep Vienna
"FGM is a
harmful traditional practice that involves the partial
or total removal of the external female genitalia organs for non-medical reasons. It is generally
done without anaesthetic, and can have lifelong health consequences including
severe bleeding, chronic infection, cysts, and severe pain during urination,
menstruation, infertility, sexual intercourse, and childbirth, and
It is estimated that between 100 and 140
million girls and women around the world have undergone some form of FGM. It is often considered a necessary part of
raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. In
many societies in Africa FGM is considered a cultural tradition, which is often
used as an argument for its continuation especially in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of that
continent, as well as in the Middle East. It is
now spread among migrants from these areas, which means that girls and
women in immigrant communities in Asia, Europe or North America, Australia and
New Zealand are affected.
The European Parliament estimates 500,000 girls and women living
in Europe are suffering with the lifelong consequences of FGM. Thousands of girls under fifteen living in EU are at risk of being
taken abroad for the procedure of this violation, especially during the main
Although the practice of FGM cannot be justified by medical reasons, in
many countries it is executed more and more often by medical professionals,
which constitutes ones of the greatest threats to the abandonment of the practice.
A recent analysis of existing data shows that more than 18% of all girls and
women who have been subjected to FGM have had the procedure performed by a
health-care provider and in some countries this rate is as high as 74%.
Integrating FGM and child marriage within the context of gender-based
violence and child protection increases the visibility of these crucial issues
that affect young women’s rights and gender equality.
Data collection and analysis conducted in 2014, found that, although the
practice is generally declining, rapid population growth and the large percentage
of young people in countries where FGM is prevalent means that the number of girls
affected could actually increase. If current trends continue, about 86 million
additional girls worldwide will be subjected to the practice by 2030.
The mix of religious and cultural
attitudes, low levels of education, and the generally conservative attitudes contributes
to the persistence of the practice. Progress can come from continued work
with religious leaders, council of elders and youth leaders.Youth leaders have also declared
that FGM/C is no longer a qualification or prerequisite for marriage, and are
discouraging parents from cutting their girls. Alternative rites of passage
help fill a void left by initiations that included FGM. UN Women plans to integrate FGM
into its framework on violence against women, and to foster greater
understanding of the gender issues that perpetuate the practice.
In 2014, the voices of young people calling for an end to FGM/C and
other harmful practices were heard around the world, from community meetings to
major international forums.
Empowered girls, adolescents, and young men and women stepped up to
speak at after-school clubs, mentoring sessions, peer trainings and street
performances. They formed networks on Facebook, and their opinions and new
ideas, less bound by traditions, were tweeted and retweeted across the globe, transcending national borders. They learned to use the Internet to campaign
Twenty-three countries in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of
households had at least one mobile phone in 2013, according to Gallup.
Broadband also has wide penetration in many programme countries, including
Egypt (52 per cent) Kenya (60 per cent) and Nigeria (55 per cent). This allows
wide dissemination of videos, photos and advocacy messaging working together to
accelerate change. Rapid acceleration of progress is crucial to the protection
of millions of girls and young women.
Young men and boys—in Gambia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda for instance are
speaking out against FGM, as they discover the harm being done. In Senegal the Facebook page of the Campaign
to End Gender-Based Violence and FGM has received thousands of visits from
young women and men. Many share their own experiences of the practice, or
respond to posted content and speak out about gender-based violence. Facebook extends the reach of messages to many more people; enabling links with other youth
As FGM is incorrectly believed to be a religious rule in many
communities, to make progress working with religious leaders continues to be a very
good strategy, but to make progress is also necessary a legislative framework and
an enforcement of the law on ending of impunity .
In 2012 United Nations Member States publish the first-ever draft
resolution aimed at ending the harmful practice of female genital mutilation.
In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 67/146,
reaffirmed by Resolution A/RES/69/150 “Intensifying
global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations”, calling upon
member States to develop, support and implement comprehensive and integrated
strategies for the prevention of FGM including training of medical personnel,
social workers and community and religious leaders to ensure they provide
competent, supportive services and care to women and girls who are at risk of
or who have undergone FGM.
Another critical milestone
in 2014 was the seminal report of the Open Working Group on Sustainable
Development Goals. It identified the elimination of harmful practices, including
FGM, as a proposed target within the set of goals that aims to guide
development for the 2016 -2030 period.
Recognizing the importance of engaging health workers in the effort to
end FGM, 6 February 2015, International Day of Zero Tolerance for
Female Genital Mutilation was marked under the theme ‘Mobilization and
Involvement of Health Personnel to Accelerate Zero Tolerance to Female Genital
However, before the UN Resolutions there was Mrs. Berhane Ras-Work; the first African/Ethiopian to
break the taboo of FGM some thirty years ago. She is the founder of The
Inter-African Committee (IAC) 1984, which now operates in 28 African
countries to promote the health of African women and girls, and to bring an end
to FGM and other Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs). She has been
working tirelessly to be the "voice for the voiceless".
Her book "The Unbidden Pain" was presented at the UN Vienna in 2014 and is “the need to secure help for women and
girls and bring to an end their travails and excruciating pain, coupled
with unnecessary deaths”.
‘The Unbidden Pain’ exposes the horror, revealing a vivid and often explicit description of the gruesome nature of FGM, without anaesthesia,
and under the most unimaginable unhygienic conditions. The book shows the
compassionate effort of the author to seek help and succour for victims and
their communities, through bringing to the fore the global threat of the problem.
It documents personal experiences, observations and interactions with victims,
like-minded people, religious leaders, political leaders, opinion leaders, etc.
in the fight to eradicate the practice. It is written so tautly that one may
think it is a script out of the book bearing African proverbs that signal off
what each section sumptuously elicits.
Photo: Berhane Ras Work (left) at her book presentation
at the UN 2014 with SI UN Rep Dora Vrdlovec
Through her engagement with Inter
Africa Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and
Children (IAC), Ras-Work
divulges practical strategies, programmes, campaigns, initiatives and
interventions undertaken in the fight for the eradication of FGM. This work
reveals the practicality of partnership with governments, individuals,
organizations, media, etc. as formidable allies in securing accountability and serves
as a practical guide and manual for NGOs engagement in offering service to the
community for an enduring and right-filled future for women with greater
responsibility and accountability.
As FGM is becoming a great issue through the
migrants in Europe too, the FGM Teachings Kit for the Prevention and Elimination of FGM among
Immigrants in Europe was presented by Mrs Etenesh Hadis (African Women’s
Organisation in Austria and Board Member of International Alliance For Health
Promotion) in the House of the European Union (in the frame of Daphne
Program), on 27 November 2015.
THE UNBIDDEN PAIN Publisher: Janus Publishing Company LTD., Cambridge,
Berhane Ras Wok by her book presentation
UN 2014 and SI rep. Dora Vrdlovec
WUNRN LISTSERVE: http://www.januspublishing.co.uk/bookshopdetails.php?pid=763