The 6th of February marks “International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation” which calls for the complete abolition of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The definition of this heinous practice, sometimes referred to as female circumcision, has been defined as all procedures that involve the removal of the external female genitalia, partially or completely, or other injury to the female genital organs without a medical justification. Stemming from a culture of deep-rooted inequality and discrimination, female genital mutilation constitutes a violation of fundamental rights such as a person’s rights to health, security, physical and mental integrity, and the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. According to data collected in around 30 countries, more than 200 million girls and women today have been subjected to this inhumane practice (Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting : A Global Concern UNICEF, New York, 2016). Similarly, statistics highlight that :
At least 30% of girls under the age of 15 years are subjected to FGM.
One out of every four women in the world have undergone FGM.
More than 4 million girls in the world are at risk of FGM in 2021
More than 18% of female genital mutilation is carried out by health care providers
The celebration of this day provides an opportunity to highlight the need to consider this nefarious practice a crime punishable by law. Moreover, the Institute stresses on the need for national legislation to play its role in criminalizing such actions with clear and specific provisions tackling the issue of FGM, in coherence with international human rights law, and to impose penal sanctions to hold perpetrators to account. Similarly, the Institute calls for a discussion on and reassessment of traditions and cultural practices that violate human rights to reach a solution that respects cultural specificities of communities across the world while simultaneously preventing human rights violations. The Geneva Institute for Human Rights calls on Governments to implement UN General Assembly Resolution 73/149 of 17 December 2018 on intensifying global efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation, in addition to Human Rights Council Resolution 16/44 of 17 July 2020 on the elimination of female mutilation and other relevant decisions issued by the General Assembly and the Commission on the Status of women (CSW) on measures aimed at eliminating harmful traditional practices that hinder the full realization of human rights by women and girls. Finally, the Geneva Institute for Human Rights urges the international community to utilize all resources and intensify efforts to contribute to the eradication of this practice. Cultural barriers or religious inclinations should not interfere or prevent the protection of innocent young girls and women.