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International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (6 feb)

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UNICEF reveals that at least 200 million women alive today have undergone some form of female genital mutilation, with dramatic physical and psychological consequences.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), mainly carried out on girls aged 4 to 14, is the ritual partial or total removal of external female genitalia. Women who undergo this practice, which is recognised as a human rights violation by the international community, risk severe, sometimes irreversible, physical damage as well as being victims of serious psychological trauma.

International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM

In order to fight this phenomenon, which has affected at least 200 million women alive today in 30 countries, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is celebrated on the 6th of February. The aim of the day, established by the United Nations on the 20th of December 2012 is to encourage governments, civil society and all involved parties to implement concrete actions and increase awareness campaigns against FGM.

According UNICEF report Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: a Global Concern, 50 per cent of girls and women who have undergone some form of genital mutilation live in 3 countries: Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Thankfully, the phenomenon seems to have registered a downward trend: between 2005 and 2010 it decreased by 5 per cent. But its eradication is still far from being achieved: it is estimated, in fact, that it will be halved by 2074. Moreover, the steady growth in the world’s population could increase the number of victims of FGM.

Contrary to what many may think, this cruel custom has no religious origin. Most of the problem is linked to lack of education and to the refusal of abandoning habits that are considered normal, if not fundamental, for community life. Indeed, mutilation represents a symbolic – and material – form of the definitive transition from childhood to adulthood – therefore, to marriage – thus favouring community cohesion.

“If we allow girls to go to school, the phenomenon will be wiped out in just a few years. But if they’re going to be illiterate, who is going to develop the community? Who is going to tell people that cutting girls is wrong?,” according to Lucy Yepe Itore, who has been saving Masai and Kenyan girls from mutilation and forced marriages for many years.

Nevertheless, the phenomenon doesn’t affect only developing countries, but Western ones too, where it is carried out by those families coming from places where FGM keeps being seen as a ritual.