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Sierra Leone News: Int. Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said, “With the dignity, health and well-being of millions of girls at stake, there is no time to waste. Together, we can and must end this harmful practice.”
Female genital mutilation (FGM/C) is a procedure that involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and 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 and girls. The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.
“It’s time to end FGM and give girls choices for their bodies and their future,” said, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, on the occasion of International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
She continued, “The high rates of obstetric problems and maternal death among the same communities that practice FGM and early marriage are no coincidence. The high rates of gender inequality, low educational attainment for girls, poor health, and cyclical grinding poverty in those same communities are no coincidence either. They are all linked, and they practically ensure that those girls have domestic responsibilities and academic deficiencies that condemn them to a future with very short horizons. It is more likely that a girl will be subjected to FGM if her mother has little or no education. With those limitations come multiple and repeating missed opportunities:
personal wellbeing, social growth, economic diversity and community resilience.”
Key Facts:
*Globally, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.
*Girls 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in Gambia at 56%, Mauritania 54% and Indonesia where around half of girls aged 11 and younger have undergone the practice.
*Countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15 to 49 are Somalia 98 %, Guinea 97% and Sierra Leone is very near 94%, according to UNICEF.
*FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
*FGM cause severe bleeding and health issues including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths.
*FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
*The Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 calls for an end to FGM by 2030 under Goal 5 on Gender Equality, Target 5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
*The elimination of FGM has been called for by numerous inter-governmental organizations, including the African Union, the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as in three resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly.
The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities.
*Where FGM is a social convention, the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing is a strong motivation to perpetuate the practice.
*FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
*FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman’s libido and therefore believed to help her resist “illicit” sexual acts.
*FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are “clean” and “beautiful” after removal of body parts that are considered “male” or “unclean”.
*Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.
*Local structures of power and authority, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice.
*In most societies, FGM is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.
By Zainab Iyamide Joaque
Wednesday February 07, 2018.

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