FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
The term "female genital mutilation" (also called "female genital cutting" and "female circumcision") refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world are estimated to have undergone such procedures, and 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedures every year. Female genital mutilation has been reported to occur in all parts of the world, but it is most prevalent in: the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East and among certain immigrant communities in North America and Europe.
Female genital mutilation has no known health benefits. On the contrary, it is known to be harmful to girls and women in many ways. First and foremost, it is painful and traumatic. The removal of or damage to healthy, normal genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and causes several immediate and long-term health consequences. For example, babies born to women who have undergone female genital mutilation suffer a higher rate of neonatal death compared with babies born to women who have not undergone the procedure.
Communities that practice female genital mutilation report a variety of social and religious reasons for continuing with it. Seen from a human rights perspective, the practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.
Female genital mutilation is nearly always carried out on minors and is therefore a violation of the rights of the child. The practice also violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
Decades of prevention work undertaken by local communities, governments, and national and international organizations have contributed to a reduction in the prevalence of female genital mutilation in some areas. Communities that have employed a process of collective decision making have been able to abandon the practice. Indeed, if the practising communities decide themselves to abandon female genital mutilation, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly. Several governments have passed laws against the practice, and where these laws have been complemented by culturally-sensitive education and public awareness-raising activities, the practice has declined.
CAGeM has played a key role in advocating against the practice and generating data that confirm its harmful consequences. We have also made a major contribution to the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of female genital mutilation.