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In a joint statement on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), UNICEF and UNFPA Executive Directors described FMG as a human rights violation and shared strategies to help eliminate it.

UN leaders stressed the importance of ending FGM in order to empower women and girls and achieve the SDGs.

6 February 2018: On the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), UN leaders underscored the role of eliminating FGM and empowering women and girls in achieving the SDGs. Leaders highlighted the role of political will, community engagement and targeted investment in changing practices and lives, stressing that FGM can and must be stopped.

The Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality (SDG 5) target 5.3 aims to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and FGM by 2030. According to the UN, global prevalence of FGM has declined nearly one-quarter since 2000 but the rate of progress is insufficient to keep up with population growth, meaning that the number of total cases is expected to continue to increase without additional action. In addition, by 2030, one-third of births globally will be in the 30 FGM countries, a trend that will require accelerated progress to protect women and girls from this practice.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres described FGM as “a gross violation of the human rights of women and girls.”

In his message for the day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described FGM as “a gross violation of the human rights of women and girls.” He called for accelerating progress on SDG target 5.3, saying that, without immediate action, “a further 68 million girls could be subjected to this practice by 2030.” Guterres stressed, “sustainable development cannot be achieved without full respect for the human rights of women and girls.”

In a joint statement for the Day, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Natalaia Kanem described FGM as a “violation of human rights that both reflects and perpetuates the low status of girls and women” and can cause infection, childbirth complications and death. The leaders highlighted building momentum to eliminate FGM, observing that over 25 million people in more than 18,000 communities across 15 countries have disavowed the practice of FGM since 2008. Fore and Kanem stressed that ending the practice helps girls to grow up healthier, better educated and employed, and more empowered to make decisions about their lives.

In countries where UNICEF and UNFPA work jointly to end FGM, the UN finds that girls are one-third less likely to undergo FGM than in 1997. The UNICEF and UNFPA Executive Directors highlighted conditions that help to end FGM, including when governments, communities and families address the issue; when women and girls are empowered to make their voices heard; when villages confront social norms; when access to education, health and legal services support sustainable change; when medical professionals refuse to perform FGM; or when laws make FGM a crime and authorities enforce the law.

According to the UN Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC), many women and girls in European countries are also subjected to FGM, particularly migrants from countries where FGM is practiced. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 20,000 women and girls coming from countries that practice FGM apply for asylum in European member states annually, including for reasons related to FGM. UNRIC explains that FGM continues to exist among migrant groups after migration to Europe, with girls particularly at risk when they temporarily return to their country of origin during holidays.

The Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, said the FGM “is not acceptable in the 21st century” in her remarks at an international forum in the Gambia on strategies to combat FGM. Gambia banned FGM in November 2015. Wickramanayake called on countries to address gaps in their legal frameworks to end the practice of FGM. [UN Press Release] [UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Statement] [UNRIC Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Special Envoy Statement]

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