UN-backed meeting aims to foster ways to eradicate female genital mutilation

1 August 2007

Dozens of experts from around the world – including representatives from United Nations agencies, religious and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), law enforcement agencies, Government and research institutions – are meeting in Addis Ababa on ways to eradicate the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C).

More than 100 million women and girls worldwide have undergone a form of FGM/C, which has serious physical and psychological effects.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) define this traditional practice as “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.”

The UNFPA, along with its development partners, convened a Global Technical Consultation on FGM/C running from 30 July to 3 August. Participants are also discussing related issues of sexual and reproductive health, human rights and gender.

In welcoming remarks, the Director of UNFPA’s Country Support Office in Addis Ababa, Benson Morah, stressed how entrenched the harmful practice is in some areas.

A collaborative approach including the participation of local communities is key “because the practice of FGM/C is deeply rooted in some of our cultures, and its eradication must also come from changes within those cultures,” he noted.

According to UNFPA, FGM/C can result in serious health consequences, ranging from severe pain to haemorrhaging and infection which can be of such magnitude as to result in death. In the longer-term, the practice could result in damage to the urethra, fistulae and infertility. A recent WHO study in six countries confirmed that the more extensive the genital mutilation of a woman the higher her risks are in having obstetric complications.

The agency also states that the practice is a violation of women’s basic human rights.

WHO estimates that between 100 and 140 million women and girls have been subjected to FGM/C in 28 African countries and in immigrant communities in Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

 

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