Explained: Why You Should Care About International Day Of Zero Tolerance For Female Genital Mutilation

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Explained: Why You Should Care About International Day Of Zero Tolerance For Female Genital Mutilation

The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is observed annually on February 6, as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This day plays a crucial role in raising awareness and driving action against the practice of female genital mutilation, a human rights violation that affects more than 200 million girls alive today. 

What Is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to the altering, cutting, or removal of someone or all of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is considered an act of violation of the human rights of women and girls internationally. The practice is commonly carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15. Although prevalent in almost 30 countries, Somalia accounts for the highest number of cases of FGM, which is about 99.2%, followed by Mali at 72.7%.

Also Read:India Refuses To Acknowledge Female Genital Mutilation, Let Alone Make Laws To Curb It

 

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The practice is not as prevalent in India but continues to exist primarily in Dawoodi, Bohra. There is no law in India condemning the practice. However, the Ministry of Women and Child Development does view it as a crime. 

This is yet another attempt to curb women’s freedom. FGM does not have any proven health benefits; rather, it is a cause of many health and mental well-being issues for women. The only reason behind the whole process is to control women’s sexual freedom. 

Risks Associated With FGM

FGM poses several health risks, including severe pain, excessive bleeding, genital tissue swelling, fever, infections, and an increased risk of newborn deaths. Long-term consequences can include urinary problems, menstrual problems, scarred tissue and keloids, sexual problems, and childbirth complications. Psychologically, it can lead to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and low self-esteem. 

Why Is The Day Important?

February 6 was first designated as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM in 2012 as an initiative to eradicate the practice and empower women and girls. This approach by the United Nations aims to amplify the message that FGM is unacceptable due to its detrimental effects on the physical and psychological health of females. 

In 2024, the theme for The International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM is ‘Her Voice, Her Future.’ The organisation calls out for people to invest in the survivors-led movement so as to accelerate the process of eradicating the practice of female genital mutilation.

Also Read: Costa Rica Urges India To Acknowledge The Existence Of Female Genital Mutilation And Criminalise It. Finally, We Are Talking About It!

Prevention And Global Efforts

Any social cause requires unity and a multifaceted approach. Globally, everyone has to take responsibility for the human rights of girls and women. Most importantly, education plays a pivotal role in changing perceptions and norms that perpetuate FGM. International and local organisations work tirelessly to educate communities about the health risks and human rights violations associated with FGM. According to a survey by the United Nations, 30% more girls and women who have completed elementary school than those who have not are likely to be against female genital mutilation. For women and girls with at least a secondary education, this increases to 70%.

The United Nations launched a joint programme on FGM in 2008, aiming to eradicate the practice as soon as possible. The programme supports legalisation and policies that condemn FGM and promotes community-level education to change societal norms. Similarly, Tostan is a non-governmental organisation that has been particularly successful at grassroots efforts to end FGM in West Africa. Tostan’s community empowerment programme facilitates discussions and education on human rights and health, which have led to numerous communities publicly declaring their abandonment of FGM.

Overall, many countries have passed laws that criminalise FGM, and international bodies support implementing and enforcing these laws. 

How Can You Help?

Initially, any change seems daunting, but it is actually way simpler than you think. It is as easy as reading this article, so you are already one step ahead. 

Education: The basis of most problems is a lack of education.  And the solution lies in awareness. Educate yourself about FGM and share this knowledge with your community (just like you share that gossip about that new neighbour)

Support NGOs: Many non-governmental organisations are on the front lines, working to end FGM. Consider donating to or volunteering for these organisations. 

Advocate Policy Change: Advocate for stronger policies and enforcement mechanisms against FGM. Be it just sharing this article on your Instagram story, signing a petition, or commenting on a post that supports the campaign. 

Empower Girls and Women: Support initiatives that empower girls and women, providing them with education, health care, and economic opportunities. 

The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation serves as a reminder of the collective action required to end this practice. By educating ourselves, advocating for effective policies, and supporting the rights of girls and women, we can move closer to a world free of FGM. Let’s use this day to reaffirm our commitment to protecting and upholding the dignity, health, and well-being of all females. 

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