UN officials on Wednesday called for an end to female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) [UNFPA backgrounder; JURIST news archive], a practice that still threatens millions of girls worldwide. A statement [text] from Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin [official profile], Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) [official website], called FGM/C an affront to human dignity and an unacceptable continuing human rights violation. The statement was made to mark Thursday's International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation [UN profile], which was sponsored by every country in Africa and embraced by the entire membership of the UN. While Osotimehin did note the acceleration of progress [UN News Centre report] in eradicating the harmful practice, with Uganda, Kenya and Guinea-Bissau adopting laws criminalizing FGM/C, he also stressed that the challenge of eliminating it required increased efforts. In a statement [text] on Thursday Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called on people to "strive to preserve the best in any culture, and leave harm behind." The UN and their partners, he said, are engaged in culturally sensitive activities that aim to stop FGM without scolding or shame as well as helping those affected by FGM. The president of the General Assembly, John Ashe [official profile], also spoke on the matter [press release], calling on governments, civil society organizations, religious leaders and community groups to work together to promote an end to the deeply-entrenched practice.
In July UNICEF [official website] released a comprehensive new report revealing that FGM/C is on the decline [JURIST report] around the world. The report indicates that as many as 125 million women and girls worldwide have undergone some form of FGM/C. The UNFPA and UNICEF reported in February that significant progress has been made [JURIST report] in ending the practice of FGM/C but called upon the international community to do more to end the practice. In November 2012 a UN panel urged countries to ban [JURIST reports] FGM/C. In February 2012 the UN reported [JURIST report] similar progress in ending the practice. In 2010 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called on the government of Iraqi Kurdistan [JURIST report] to outlaw female FGM/C. Uganda [JURIST report] joined the movement against FGM/C in 2009 by outlawing it, although it is still practiced there.