In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that calls on all countries and civil society to observe the international day of zero tolerance for FGM annually on 6 February. Observance of the day is part of UN efforts to meet one of its Sustainable Development Goals and fully eliminate FGM by 2030.
FGM comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external female genitalia, or other harm to female genitals for non-medical reasons. The practice is proved to have no health benefits and may result in severe bleeding, infections, infertility, or even death.
The procedure, often carried out on underage girls, is tied to cultural, religious, and social factors in some societies. FGM is primarily concentrated in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East but remains a universal issue as it is also practised in other parts of the world and persists among immigrant populations, according to the United Nations.
The controversial procedure has historical roots. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and the Hittites practised FGM in the 5th century BC.
The procedure was also common in certain tribes in Africa, the Philippines, the Upper Amazon, and Australia, and was practised by early Romans and Arabs. Some forms of FGM were practised in Europe and the United States up until the 1950s to treat certain illnesses, including sexual or mental disorders. Western society started to pay more attention to the controversial issue in the 1980s amid high migration from countries where FGM is widespread.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, over 200 million women and girls alive today in 30 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have been subjected to FGM. More than 4.6 million girls remain at risk to experience the procedure by 2030.
FGM is recognised globally as a violation of women's and girls' rights. According to the UN, the practice shows deep-seated gender inequality and extreme form of discrimination against women.
In 2008, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF launched a joint global programme aimed at eliminating FGM worldwide. The programme is active in 17 countries and supports local authorities, civil society, movements, religious leaders, and communities.
According to UNFPA, over 3.2 million women and girls have benefited from FMG-related protection, prevention, and care services since the programme was launched. Moreover, 13 countries have banned FGM since 2008.
In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that reaffirms its call to end FGM globally. The resolution was co-sponsored by a group of African countries.
The practice is most widespread in a handful of nations, including Somalia, Guinea, Egypt, and Sudan. In some countries, over 90 percent of women and girls have been subjected to FGM. The procedure remains widespread in many African nations despite it being banned by law. Last year, Sudan joined the list of countries that have criminalised the practice.
The UNFPA estimates that $2.4 billion is needed to end FGM by 2030, or $95 to prevent one girl from a risk group from being subjected to the practice. According to the UN, from 2000-2018 the prevalence of FGM decreased by 25 percent. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the issue and led to an increase in FGM.
The 2021 theme of the International Day of Zero Tolerance For FGM is "No Time for Global Inaction, Unite, Fund, and Act to End Female Genital Mutilation". On this day, many programmes and campaigns to raise awareness about the practice are held around the world.