Child marriage and female genital mutilation are internationally recognized human rights violations.
Harmful cultural practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) are discriminatory practices committed regularly over such long periods of time that societies begin to consider them acceptable.
Around the world, hundreds of millions of girls and boys have experienced some form of violence, exploitation or harmful practice, although girls are at much greater risk. Child marriage and FGM span continents and cultures, yet – in every society in which they occur – reflect values that hold girls in low esteem.
Some 640 million girls and women living today were married as children, and at least 200 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM.
FGM can lead to serious health complications – including prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility, or even death. Girls and women who have undergone FGM are at heightened risk of experiencing complications during childbirth.
In some societies, FGM goes hand in hand with child marriage. Girls married as children are more likely to drop out of school and become pregnant as teenagers, when they face increased risks of dying during pregnancy or childbirth.
Wherever they occur, harmful practices rob girls of their childhood, deny them the chance to determine their own future, and threaten the well-being of entire societies.
The Sustainable Development Goals call for the elimination of all harmful practices to advance the rights of women and girls globally. UNICEF seeks to ensure that every child is protected from violence and exploitation, including harmful practices, in both humanitarian and development settings. To that end, UNICEF works across the globe to:
- Increase knowledge and change attitudes so that these practices can be eliminated for good
- Develop and support implementation of appropriate laws and policies
- Support community-level transformation of social norms and practices
- Empower women and girls to express and exercise their rights and ensure their meaningful participation in decision-making processes
- Increase access to quality prevention, protection and care services
- Increase government ownership over relevant programmes and efforts
- Strengthen data collection and analysis
UNICEF’s Strategic Plan reaffirms our commitment to help eliminate child marriage and FGM. Together with UNFPA, UNICEF co-leads the Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation: Delivering the global promise: End FGM by 2030 and the Global Programme to End Child Marriage.
In 2021, UNICEF-supported programmes reached 7.6 million adolescent girls in 47 countries with prevention and care services related to ending child marriage. Over 10 million people also participated in education, communication and social mobilization platforms promoting the elimination of FGM in 18 countries.
Technology-based interventions to address child marriage and female genital mutilation
Last modified May 2023
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