International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation : Promoting “Zero Tolerance” to Female Genital Mutilation
KAMPALA, February 6, 2013 – Uganda joins other countries worldwide to observe the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation today, when the global community rejects the harmful cultural practice of total or partial removal of female genitalia.
This year’s national theme, ‘Zero Tolerance against Gender-Based Violence: Intensify Efforts for the Elimination of FGM’, seeks to accelerate the sensitisation of communities about the grave dangers surrounding the practice.
Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) not only subjects girls and women to excruciating pain, often at the hands of cutters in non-sterile conditions, but also poses serious, long-term sexual and reproductive health consequences for the survivors.
While less than 1% of Uganda’s population practices FGM/C, the practice is widespread in the east- and northeastern communities that do, notably the Pokot and Sabiny peoples, where 95% and 50% of the women respectively, are compelled to undergo FGM/C. It is also reportedly widely practiced among the Tepeth.
Girls as young as 7 years old are subjected to the cruel practice - deemed a rite of passage into womanhood - short of which they risk total rejection by their communities and exclusion from important social functions including marriage, family and motherhood.
Through the Joint Programme on FGM, the United Nations (UN) System is supporting efforts to tackle the problem in Uganda, led by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the French Embassy and Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. Final January 30, 2013
The UN Resident Co-ordinator in Uganda, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, says a key strategy is to engage grassroots community structures to raise awareness on the dangers of FGM/C, and to evoke the existing laws, such as the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Act (2009), to protect the vulnerable girls and women in the affected communities.
"Engaging community-based entities like the Sabiny and Pokot Elders Associations remains critical to raising awareness about how harmful FGM/C is", says Eziakonwa-Onochie. "But this is not enough. We must strengthen their efforts by ensuring that those who forcibly subject girls and women to this cruel practice face the full force of the law."
With added support from the Global Trust Fund and the French Government, the Joint Programme particularly recognizes and supports the role of community leaders and elders in bringing about change. In 2012, we also saw girls being assertive and refusing to be cut. The UN applauds their courage and also their community for having supported them for their stand.
UNFPA, Country Representative, Ms. Janet Jackson, says positive steps were made in 2012, but that much more still needs to be done.
"Last year, over 51 communities in east- and northeastern Uganda publically announced that they were abandoning FGM/C. We saw cutters surrender their knives to the authorities saying ‘No more cutting!’ Clan elders, religious leaders and even parents openly denounced FGM/C and protected their girls from being cut", says Jackson. "We need many more positive stories like this, because the continuous abuse of girls and women’s rights is unacceptable, as is them having their reproductive health incessantly compromised."
This year’s commemoration also recognizes the efforts of international community to draw the focus on translating the resolution into action by mobilizing and committing all key stakeholders and communities towards the abandonment of FGM as a harmful practice. The UN resolution banning FGM urges member states to condemn all harmful practices that affect women and girls, in particular FGM and to protect women and girls from this form of violence and to end impunity.
"Eliminating FGM/C requires the efforts and the commitment of a wide range of stakeholders. Besides communities, political leaders have a central role to play in disseminating strong messages on the abandonment of FGM/C and advocating for a better integration of FGM/C issues in policies, both at national and international level," says Aline Kuster-Ménager, Ambassador of France in Uganda.
An estimated 120 to 140 million women worldwide are subjected to FGM/C, with three million girls in Africa continue to be at risk each year.
Zero Tolerance Day against FGM/C in Africa has been observed since February 6, 2003, and national celebrations are being held in Moroto District in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda Final January 30, 2013
For more information, please contact:
Team Leader - Communications, Media and External Relations,
United Nations Population Fund