UN warns cross-border movements undermine efforts to end female genital mutilation News
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UN warns cross-border movements undermine efforts to end female genital mutilation

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) warned on Friday that global efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) are undermined by the cross-border movements of girls to undergo FGM.

FGM is a practice that involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It can lead to both immediate health risks, such as infection, HIV transmission and urine retention, as well as longer-term psychological impacts, including losing trust in caregivers, anxiety and depression.

The OHCHR noted that a report it previously published on April 18 pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 50/16 stated that cross-border FGM tends to occur when females from countries that prohibit FGM cross borders to countries where FGM is permitted. The lack of “cutters”, traditional practitioners of FGM, in certain countries also leads to the increase in cross-border FGM procedures. The report said that about 4.3 million girls risked being subjected to FGM in 2023, and over 600,000 women in the EU are dealing with the ramifications of FGM.

The report highlighted that the exact number of cross-border FGM procedures is unclear as such procedures are poorly documented due to a lack of comprehensive data. For example, data on the prevalence of FGM procedures in Asia and the Middle East is unavailable, “hinder[ing] the development of targeted policies and evidence-based interventions to protect girls and women at risk.”

The report also emphasized that FGM is a harmful practice that breaches the right to non-discrimination under Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. FGM also violates physical dignity under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the right to liberty and security.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk highlighted the severity of FGM and called for FGM to be eliminated. He said:

Female genital mutilation is part of a continuum of gender-based violence and has no place in a human rights-respecting universe … It must be eliminated in all of its forms, and the gender stereotypes and patriarchal norms that anchor and perpetuate it uprooted.

Relatedly, on March 8, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) released a report on International Women’s Day alleging that more than 230 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM, an increase of 30 million or 15 percent compared with the data in 2016. UNICEF also stated that Somalia and Sudan face the challenge of addressing widespread FGM amid conflict and population growth. Likewise, climate shocks, disease and food insecurity are barriers to reliably delivering programs to support girls in Ethiopia, though it has consistently made progress on the issue.