UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] in a statement [press release] released on Friday urged all concerned countries to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2030, calling it a “violent practice” scarring girls for life [UN news report], endangering their health, depriving them of their rights, and denying them the chance to reach their full potential. Ban stated, “Never before has it been more urgent – or more possible – to end the practice of female genital mutilation, preventing immeasurable human suffering and boosting the power of women and girls to have a positive impact on our world.” The Secretary-General also reminded countries of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted unanimously by UN Member States last year, which contain a specific target calling for an end to FGM. According to a UNICEF [advocacy website] report [statistics, PDF], at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in 30 countries with half of these women and girls coming from – Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia. The Secretary General’s message called on governments “to honor their pledges with support from civil society, health providers, the media and young people” ending with the note that “We can end FGM within a generation, bringing us closer to a world where the human rights of all every woman, child and adolescent are fully respected, their health is protected, and they can contribute more to our common future.”
The UN, together with many human rights organizations across the world have been urging countries for several years to end the practice of FGM [WHO backgrounder]. In January, Gambia President Yahya Jammeh [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] banning FGM and condemning the practice as not commanded in the Quran. The UN has consistently campaigned for an end to FGM, labeling the practice, among other things, gender-based discrimination, torture, an affront to human dignity and an irreparable, irreversible abuse of the human rights of women and girls. In October 2014 the Secretary-General praised [text, speech] the launch of a global media campaign against FGM, stating that “[e]nding FGM is part of the UN’s unwavering campaign for the health, human rights and empowerment of women and girls.” In July 2014 UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced [JURIST report] plans to enact new laws that will protect girls from the practice. In July 2013 noting the continued pervasiveness of FGM, UNICEF reported [JURIST report] a world-wide decline in the practice due to multiple campaigns intended to educate parents on the emotional and physical health risks associated with the procedure and its aftermath. In December 2009 Uganda outlawed [JURIST report] FGM.