UN Backs Push to End Female Circumcision

UNITED NATIONS (AP) Ten U.N. agencies have launched a campaign to significantly reduce female circumcision by 2015 and eradicate the damaging practice within a generation.

In a statement released Wednesday, the agencies said female circumcision violates the rights of women and girls to health, protection and even life since the procedure sometimes results in death.

The agencies pledged to support all efforts by governments, communities, women and girls to reduce and end the practice.

Female circumcision, also called female genital mutilation, usually involves the removal of the clitoris and other parts of female genitalia. Those who practice it say it tames a girl's sexual desire and maintains her honor.

"Today, we must stand and firmly oppose this practice because it clashes with our core universal values and constitutes a challenge to human dignity and health," Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the Commission on the Status of Women where the campaign was launched.

"The consequences of genital mutilation are unacceptable anywhere, anytime and by any moral and ethical standard," she said. "Often, female genital mutilation is carried out on minors, violating the rights of a child to free and full consent on matters concerning her body and body functions."

According to a statement from the U.N. agencies, between 100 and 140 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone female circumcision, and 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedure every year.

It is practiced by Muslims and Christians alike, deeply rooted in the Nile Valley region and parts of sub-Saharan African, and is also performed in Yemen and Oman. Through migration, the practice has spread to Western countries like Britain.

Migiro said there were no quick or easy solutions to the problem and achieving results would require changing "collective behavior" that has supported female circumcision for generations.

"If we can come together for a sustained push, female genital mutilation can vanish within a generation," Migiro said. "This goal demands both increased resources and strengthened coordination and cooperation among all of us."

The 10 agencies are The Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS; the U.N. Development Program; the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa; the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; the U.N. Population Fund; the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights; the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR; the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF; the U.N. Development Fund for Women and the World Health Organization.

SOURCE: The Associated Press

AUTHOR: Edith M. Lederer

URL: Click here

DATE: 04/03/2008

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