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UN rights experts call for end to female genital mutilation

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) [official websites] said Wednesday that significant progress has been made in ending the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) [WHO backgrounder] but called upon the international community to do more to end the practice [press release]. UNICEF estimates that more than 120 million girls and women have experienced FGM in the 29 countries where the practice is centered. This amounts to 36 percent of females between 15-19 years old who have experienced the practice compared to 53 percent of those between 45-49 years old. While the organizations note this is significant progress, they said there is still need for improvement in efforts to stop the practice. UNICEF notes that opinions of the practice in countries where it is prevalent are slowly changing as well. A more comprehensive report of UNICEF's findings will be published later this year.

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." Last November, a UN panel urged countries to ban [JURIST reports] female genital mutilation. Last February the UN reported [JURIST report] similar progress in ending female genital mutilation. In 2010 Human Rights Watch [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. In 2009 Uganda unanimously outlawed FGM [JURIST report] and imposed harsh penalties anyone who conducts the procedure to face imprisonment.

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