Since 2012, the United Nations (U.N) has set aside February 6th of every year as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This designation is a fallout of the collaboration between UNICEF and the UNFPA, which began in 2008. The ultimate aim of this initiative is to amplify efforts in eradicating this gender-based abusive practice, with the United Nations striving for full elimination by 2030.
Female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women. It is usually done as the result of the misguided theory that cutting off the clitoris would reduce the tendency of a lady to be promiscuous. In spite of efforts to stamp it out, female genital mutilation is still being practiced in parts of Africa and the Middle East, and also rears its ugly head among immigrant populations in Western Europe. Australia and New Zealand. An estimated 100 to 140 million women and girls across 30 countries have had to experience the crudeness and cruelty of having their genitals tampered with.
According to data from the 2018 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), over 20% of women in Nigeria between the age of 15 and 49 have been circumcised. The survey also revealed that only a small number of these circumcisions were carried out by medical professionals, with majority being carried out by traditional circumcisers.
This demeaning and harmful practice comes with short-term and long-term effects on the physical and mental health of its victims. These range from excessive bleeding to shock, difficulty in passing urine, vaginal infections, psychological trauma and lifelong reproductive problems. The United Nations is aware of all this, hence its mission to sensitize the entire world on the need to eradicate this repugnant procedure.
A few years on, the campaigns initiated by the United Nations and its partner organizations could be said to have reaped concrete dividends. More than 3 million women and girls have benefited from services provided by the collaborative efforts of UNFPA and UNICEF, and about 13 countries have actively legislated against female genital mutilation. In 2015, the former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, whose provisions criminalize the practice of female genital mutilation into law. In Ethiopia’s Afar region, the prevalence of the practice has dropped drastically to less than 31 per cent.
This year’s edition of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation of will focus on mobilizing youths around the eliminations of harmful practices, including female genital mutilation under the theme: “Unleashing Youth Power: One decade of accelerating actions for zero female genital.”
Significant progress has been made, but there is still work to be done. There is the need for more collaborative efforts between the World Health Organization (WHO) and those countries where female genital mutilation still holds sway. For a country like Nigeria, there is need to fully implement the law banning the practice. 2030 is ten years away, and while the United Nations’ dream of fully eradicating female genital mutilation within a decade is well within reach, it is important to not get complacent and assume that the world has too much time on its hands.