International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

6 February, 2015

Since 2013, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on the 6th February has been a United Nations sponsored awareness day to promote the eradication of FGM, drawing the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, opinion leaders and local authorities to need to protect the human rights of girls and women.

The UN recognises FGM as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, denying them the right to health, security and physical integrity and the right to be free from cruel or degrading treatment. The procedure is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, and occasionally on adult women. FGM has no health benefits, but a key driver of the practice is the desire to control female sexual activity and capacity to reproduce, and to foster valued characteristics in women to secure marriage and increase bride price.

According to the World Health Organisation, this traditional practice has persisted for over a thousand years, reflecting a deep rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme and violent form of discrimination against women. More than 130 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM is concentrated. If current trends continue, as many as 86 million girls worldwide are likely to experience some form of the practice by 2030.

However, there is hope for change. UNICEF data shows that the majority of women and girls in most practicing countries believe FGM should end, and in most of the 29 affected countries the practice is now less prevalent among adolescent girls when compared with previous generations. Ending violence against women is a critical issue of international concern. On 22nd July 2014 the UK government and UNICEF held the first Girl Summit, rallying a global movement to end FGM and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) for all girls within a generation.

Events addressing the role and vulnerability of women and children in conflict make up an important part of our human rights portfolio, and we have highlighted the need to improve the situation for women with past events focused on tackling human trafficking, and increasing employment opportunities, in addition to helping the UK government deliver its campaign to prevent sexual violence in conflict.

Wilton Park continues to pursue the international effort to promote the rights of women and girls, and is currently exploring the possibility of convening a roundtable event to identify next steps in the international efforts against FGM.

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