UNFPA, UNICEF seek mobilisation against female genital mutilation

As the world celebrated the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), on Saturday, a call has gone to all health workers to mobilise against the harmful practice.

This was contained in a joint statement signed by the United Nations for Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), International Confederation of Midwives and  International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, made available to the Sunday Tribune in Abeokuta, at the weekend.

The bodies noted that the practice was a violation of human rights and undermines the health and well-being of some three million girls each year, but appreciated the increasing commitment of communities and governments towards eliminating it.

They contended that the support of all health workers to end the practice was critical, adding that more than 130 million girls and women in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice was concentrated had undergone some form of female genital mutilation.

“Worldwide, we are seeing an increase in the commitment by communities and governments to eliminating female genital mutilation – but it is not enough.  Today, as we mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, we call on all health workers — from midwives and nurses to obstetricians and gynaecologists — to mobilise against this dangerous and deeply harmful practice.

“The support of health workers in the global effort to end female genital mutilation is critical.  Front-line health workers have inside knowledge of the social dynamics in the communities they serve and the social norms that perpetuate female genital mutilation, and they can speed up the rapidly declining support for the practice.  Their patients know and trust them.

“Female genital mutilation is illegal in many countries, and medical providers who perform it in these places are breaking the law.  But in every country, whether legal or not, medical service providers who perform female genital mutilation are violating the fundamental rights of girls and women. They are also lending tacit approval to this wrongful practice and defying the most basic precept of medicine: Do no harm,” it said.