Female Genital Mutilation

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Female genital mutilation (FGM) 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. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. Procedures are mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15, and occasionally on adult women. In Africa, about three million girls are at risk for FGM annually. Between 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM. In Africa, about 92 million girls age 10 years and above are estimated to have undergone FGM. The practice is most common in the western, eastern and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries of Asia and the Middle East, and among certain immigrant communities in North America and Europe. Since 1997, great efforts on the part of the World Health Organization (WHO) have been made to counteract FGM, through research, work within communities, and changes in public policy. Progress at both international and local levels includes wider international involvement to stop FGM, development of international monitoring bodies and resolutions that condemn the practice, revised legal frameworks and growing political support to end FGM, and in some countries, decreasing practice of FGM, and an increasing number of women and men in practicing communities who declare their support to end it. Research shows that, if practicing communities themselves decide to abandon FGM, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly. WHO efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation focus on developing publications and advocacy tools for international, regional and local efforts to end FGM within a generation; generating knowledge about the causes and consequences of the practice, how to eliminate it and how to care for those who have experienced FGM; and developing training materials and guidelines for health professionals to help them treat and counsel women who have undergone procedures. WHO is particularly concerned about the increasing trend for medically trained personnel to perform FGM. WHO strongly urges health professionals not to perform such procedures. (2008). Female genital mutilation. World Health Organization Fact Sheets, (no. 241).

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