Ten United Nations agencies have banded together to help eliminate the harmful practice of female genital mutilation within a generation, stressing the need for strong leadership and greater resources to protect the health and lives of millions of women and girls.
An estimated 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure – which involves the partial or total removal of external female genital organs – that some 140 million women, mostly in Asia, the Middle East and in Africa, have already endured.
In a statement issued today, the agencies pledged to support governments and communities to abandon female genital mutilation, which remains widespread in many parts of the world, highlighting the damaging effects of the practice on the health of women, girls and newborn babies.
The agencies expressed their concern about the “medicalization” of the practice, whereby it is performed by health professionals in health facilities, and the belief that it enhances a girl's chastity and chances of marriage by controlling her sexuality.
“We recognize that traditions are often stronger than law, and legal action by itself is not enough,” they said. “Change must also come from within. This is why it is critical for us to join hands and work closely with communities and their leaders so that they can bring about sustainable social change.”
The aim is to have a major reduction in female genital mutilation in many countries by 2015, the target date for the achievement of the global anti-poverty objectives known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“If we can come together for a sustained push, female genital mutilation can vanish within a generation,” said Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro, adding her voice to the pledge made today. “But this goal demands both increased resources and strengthened coordination and cooperation among all of us.”
She called on countries to join the UN as full partners in the fight against female genital mutilation, which “clashes with our core universal values and constitutes a challenge to human dignity and health.”
Pledging their commitment to end the practice are the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the World Health Organization (WHO).