GENEVA: If female genital mutilation (FGM) continues at its current pace in countries where it is prevalent, some 68 million girls are susceptible to becoming victims of the practice by 2030, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
On February 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, a UN initiative, the organization urged the international community to take action against it and warned growing populations in areas where it is practiced put more girls at risk, Efe news reported.
“Female genital mutilation violates women’s and girls’ rights. It must stop now,” the WHO tweeted as it marked the day.
The UN earmarked February 6 as a reminder that efforts needed to be made in order to end female genital mutilation, which affects more than 200 million women and girls, said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic in Geneva.
Most of the people affected live in about 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where the practice is bound up in cultural or religious traditions.
Female genital mutilation is the removal of some or all of the external female genitalia.
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“Countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15 to 49 are Somalia at 98 per cent, Guinea at 97 per cent, Djibouti 93 per cent and Egypt at 87 per cent,” a UN statement said.
Within migrant communities in Europe, there are an estimated 500,000 victims and 180,000 girls are at risk of becoming one every year.
The WHO said that in 2019, it will try to combat the growing belief that substituting traditional mutilation practices with similar methods carried out by health workers was less damaging, erroneously equivocating it with male circumcision.
“Health care providers must never subject girls and women to female genital mutilation and those who do are violating the human rights of the girls and women in their care,” said the WHO spokesman.
The UN said the practice “reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls”.
“The practice also violates their rights to sexual and reproductive health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and their right to life when the procedure results in death.”
Coordinated and systematic efforts were needed in order to engage whole communities and do away with the practice, added the UN.