UN: Cross-border FGM undermines eradication efforts

The United Nations human rights office warned on Friday that the global fight against female genital mutilation (FGM) is being undermined by families crossing borders to subject girls to the procedure.

A UN report revealed that families in countries where FGM is banned are traveling to neighboring states or further afield where it is legal or where enforcement is lax.

“Female genital mutilation is part of a continuum of gender-based violence and has no place in a human rights-respecting universe,” stated UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk. “It must be eliminated in all of its forms, and the gender stereotypes and patriarchal norms that anchor and perpetuate it uprooted.”

The report highlighted that the exact number of girls subjected to cross-border or transnational FGM remains unknown due to its clandestine nature.

According to UNICEF, over 230 million girls and women have undergone FGM, with more than 144 million in Africa and over 80 million in Asia. The UN estimates that 4.3 million girls are at risk of FGM, a practice with no health benefits and severe health risks, including chronic infections.

Gambia, where 73% of women aged 15-49 have undergone FGM according to government figures, might be the first country to lift its ban on the practice.

“There’s no justification for gender-based violence against women and girls anywhere, neither on the grounds of culture nor tradition,” asserted Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

FGM is banned in over 70 countries, including at least 35 in sub-Saharan Africa, as per the World Bank.

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