Sunday, February 06, 2011

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

Today is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. All girls deserve to grow up free from harmful practices that endanger their health and well-being. But every year, three million women and girls in Africa alone face the prospect of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C), a practice with serious immediate and long-term health effects and a clear violation of fundamental human rights. Worldwide, 100 to 140 million have already undergone the practice.

Female genital mutilation, or cutting, predates Christianity and Islam - it is thought to have originated in the time of the pharaohs. Although FGM/C has been shown to have many harmful effects, both physical and emotional, the practice is sustained by a set of social rewards, including the idea that girls will face shame and social exclusion, including diminished marriage prospects, if they forego the practice.

Mutilation is practised in 28 African countries , where 140 million women have been subjected to the brutal practice and a further two million are at risk every year. Sister Fa, a Senegalese urban soul and hip-hop star who has been lending her voice to a remarkable new drive against female circumcision in 12 of the countries worst affected by the practice across the continent says "It is when you are alone, when you think: 'How can I not cut my child? She will be marginalised, pushed in a corner'. When the cutting ceremony is organised for the village and one girl is not there, everyone will know that she is not there, the whole village knows she is not cut. Then that girl is treated like an animal, you can't get married, you can't cook or pass water to someone for them to drink."

In Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen from 80% to 74%, in Kenya from 32% to 27% and in Egypt from 97% to 91%.

...I support this International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and wish the agencies success in getting the message across to people so that they do not feel ashamed. These people should be encouraged to become part of the 21st century and leave this awful backward tradition behind. The only place for FGM is in the history books. I was astonished that the prevalence rate in Egypt is 91% - I did not think Egypt was that backward in it's traditions.

When the girl becomes an adult, I believe that is the time for her to choose if she wants her genitals modified. It is wrong for parents to force their children to become victims of these ancient procedures. What surgery consenting adults choose for themselves is their business alone and they should have the freedom to alter their bodies to their desire. But to force this ancient practice on your own child is in my opinion a crime against the person. My view is the same regarding male circumcision.
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