6th February 2013

Respect for a woman’s body


Today we mark International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation (FGM).

FGM has existed in the culture and tradition of many societies for many years, causing untold psychological and physical damage to young girls. On this day it is important that we shine a light on an issue which affects so many, and also highlight the global commitment to find effective ways to accelerate its elimination.
FGM of any type has been widely recognised as a harmful practice and a violation of the fundamental human rights of girls and women. In December 2012, the UN General Assembly accepted a resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation. No religious scripts prescribe the practice, although practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.

Without knowledge about the causes and consequences of FGM, many parents and communities believe they are doing the best for their girls to prepare them for marriage. Yet we know that a powerful combination of advocacy and leadership, increased knowledge of how to eliminate the practice in communities and a strengthened health sector response to care for the girls and women living with FGC can bring about rapid change.

Here in Ethiopia, I have had the pleasure on several occasions to meet the internationally acclaimed activist, Dr. Bogaletch Geber, who founded an NGO that is working towards eradicating these harmful practices. She has made it her vision to ensure that girls are encouraged to go to school and complete their education.

The project uses community conversation, a method which allows communities themselves to explore the reasons they practice FGM, as well as understand the consequences for girls. As a result of the conversation, community elders, parents and girls themselves make a collective commitment to reject FGM.

Dr Bogaletch’s work has shown that in Ethiopia, in common with other parts of the world, when practicing communities choose themselves to end the practice, change can occur quickly.

According to the World Health Organisation about 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM. And in Africa there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing FGM every year.

This is an intolerable situation. That is why we need to give strong support to governments, religious leaders, international and local organisations promoting change.

2 comments on “Respect for a woman’s body

  1. This subject is a travesty against women and human rights . I also believe that male circumcision is mutilation as well and so widely accepted as “normal”. I pray for a day when all babies and adolescents are left whole and perfect just the way they were born!

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