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UNICEF to governments: End female genital multilation

'International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM’ Is Springboard for Action

ADDIS ABABA / NAIROBI, 6 February 2003 – Troubled by figures indicating that between 100 million and 130 million women suffered female genital mutilation or cutting as girls, UNICEF said today governments must abide by commitments they made at the UN Special Session on Children and move immediately to end the disturbing phenomenon by 2010.

“The 100 million women who endured female genital mutilation or cutting as young girls are living proof that the world has failed to protect them,” said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF.

“Every year, an estimated 2 million girls are at risk of genital cutting and mutilation. This practice is not only a violation of every child’s rights, it is physically harmful and has serious consequences for a girl’s health,” Bellamy added. “This is why governments and communities alike must take immediate action to put an end to this practice. There is no better time to start taking action than today, the very first International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM.”

Bellamy noted that six of the eight major goals adopted by all Member States of the United Nations in 2000 – known as the Millennium Development Goals – pertain to children. She said that ending all forms of FGM is crucial to the success of two of the goals: improving maternal health and promoting gender equality.

UNICEF is committed to eliminating all forms of FGM. The organization’s work focuses on building a protective environment for children that safeguards them from abuse and exploitation. UNICEF believes that eight core requirements are key to the elimination of female genital mutilation and cutting. These include:

* Attitudes, traditions, customs and beliefs need to change so that parents and communities are aware of the dangers of FGM/C and that girls who do not endure the practice are not discriminated against. The commitment of religious leaders is instrumental in this endeavour.

* Governments need to openly and decisively demonstrate commitment to ending FGM/C. Doing so will require the ratification of relevant international instruments.

* Laws prohibiting FGM/C needs to be implemented and reliably enforced.

* The practice of FGM/C needs to be openly confronted by national media and civil society groups.

* Children and adolescents need to be informed about the risks of FGM/C.

* Teachers, health and social workers and others who interact with young people need to be able to counter all forms of FGM/C.

* Health and social services need to be able to respond to the severe consequences of FGM/C, including life-threatening injuries and birth complications.

* Monitoring the prevalence and nature of FGM/C is an essential first step to addressing it.

“Genital mutilation and cutting and other forms of violence against girls occur on a daily basis across the globe – in Africa, South and East Asia and in parts of Europe, North America and Australia,” Bellamy stated. “This is why we call on world leaders to stand by their commitment and end the practice by 2010. These girls deserve nothing less.”

While political leadership is critical for ending the practice, the work of civil societies is equally significant. In this vein, UNICEF said it welcomes the international NGO initiative called “Stop FGM,” which was launched at the European Parliament in December of 2002.

Bellamy’s call for action came on the International Day Against FGM, launched by the Inter-African Committee for traditional practices in Addis Ababa today.

For further information, please contact:

Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF Media / New York, (1-212) 326-7269 e-mail: jsedky@unicef.org




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