ETHIOPIA: Female Mutilation in the Spotlight

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has urged the international community to back its "zero tolerance" attitude to the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

A statement issued during a conference on the issue being held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa from July 30 to August 3 said that although considerable progress had been made in some countries, worrying trends were beginning to emerge.

Such trends included the increasing medicalization of the practice as parents seek to have their daughters cut by health providers so as to minimise health effects of FGM/C, the statement said.

The practice, which is defined by WHO, UNFPA and Unicef as "the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non- therapeutic reasons," affects two to three million girls yearly.

Between 100 and 140 million women and girls have been subjected to this practice across the world, predominantly in 28 countries in Africa and the Middle East and also among immigrant communities in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand as well as in some communities in India, Indonesia, Iraq and Malaysia.

In remarks to the conference Fama Hane Ba, the Director of Africa Division at UNFPA, commended organisations that are achieving high levels of success in combating the practice through strategies based on dialogue with community leaders.

Genital mutilation infringes on the rights of women and girls to reproductive health and bodily integrity and subjects them to torturous and degrading practices, the UNFPA statement said.

"The practice of FGM/C is deeply rooted in some of our cultures, and its eradication must also come from changes within those cultures," said Benson Morah, Director of UNFPA's Country Support Team Office in Addis Ababa.

The Addis Ababa meeting brings together 70 experts from across the globe, including participants from UN agencies, faith-based and non-governmental organisations, law enforcement agencies, governments and research institutions to discuss strategies and adopt a "road map" for ending FGM/C. - Sapa-DPA


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DATE: 04/08/2007

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