International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

According to WHO data an estimated 140 million girls and women are currently living with the consequences of Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Most of these, about 101 million of girls aged 10 and above, live in Africa. But FGM/C is by no means isolated to a that continent! The European Parliament estimates that 500,000 girls and women living in Europe are suffering lifelong consequences of FGM.

February 6th is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, which aims to raise awareness and garner support to completely eliminate the dangerous practices of FGM/C. Its origins can be traced to 2003, when  Stella Obasanjo, the First Lady of Nigeria made the official declaration on Zero Tolerance to FGM in Africa during a conference organized by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC). It was later adopted as an international awareness day by the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights.

In June 2012 the European Parliament adopted the Resolution on ending female genital mutilation. Following the adoption, European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) launched the first ever EU-wide study into the current state of FGM/C in EU member countries and then non-member country Croatia. The outcomes in terms of policy goals are:

  • an effective strategy to combat FGM/C in the EU is to be based on a gender-sensitive and human rights based approach
  • information gathering on communities that practice FGM/C needs to intensify, as do the efforts to enact behavioral change in those communities
  • legal provisions need to be implemented that criminalize FGM/C
  • specialized support services for victims are to be created or more thoroughly supported.

In order to better understand the cultural reasons behind this practice, do read this compilation of cultural, religious and social causes behind FGM/C, as well as a good overview of all related facts, by the WHO.

We, medical students of Europe, can get involved in a number of ways:

  • educate yourself about the medical aspects of FGM/C, the procedures and the adverse effects
  • combat the prevailing myth that FGM/C is  something that happens only outside Europe
  • be culturally sensitive, yet clearly condemn the practice of FGM/C on human rights and gender equality grounds when faced with a case or a community that practices it
  • volunteer in institutions that help the victims of these practices
  • lobby your government to criminalize FGM/C and support the rehabilitation of victims

Today is the day you make an important step in combating human rights abuses and gender inequality! What are you waiting for?

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