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UN reports progress in ending female genital mutilation

The UN released its annual report [text, PDF] Monday on trends in female genital mutilation (FGM) [WHO backgrounder; JURIST news archive], revealing that approximately 2,000 African communities have renounced the practice since last year [JURIST report]. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) [official websites] compiled the report to fulfill a joint-mission to accelerate the voluntary abandonment of practicing FGM in Africa. The report detailed that two nations in particular have taken to ending FGM through the rule of law. In Sudan, several states criminalized FGM, while Kenya passed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2011 [text, DOC]. In turn, Kenya saw the largest overall decrease in acts of FGM. Mauritania [BBC backgrounder] is the only country that saw an increase in FGM [press release].

As many as 140 million women and girls worldwide have undergone some form of FGM, which is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) [official website] as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons." Efforts in several countries, however, have sought to eliminate or reduce the practice. In 2009, Uganda unanimously outlawed FGM [JURIST report] and imposed harsh penalties anyone who conducts the procedure to face imprisonment. In 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the government of Iraqi Kurdistan [JURIST report] to outlaw female genital mutilation and to develop a comprehensive legislative plan to reduce FGM in the region.

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