Female genital mutilation: At least 200 million girls and women in the world have suffered, others will still suffer

ROME – Millions of girls are still exposed to the terrible risks of Female genital mutilation (FGM), that is, the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia, which also involve other injuries, performed with a blade and without an anesthetic. Although this practice, which has its roots in ancient tribal traditions, is recognized as a violation of human rights, internationally, it is estimated that about 68 million girls worldwide are at risk of suffering this practice before. of 2030. Female genital mutilation is still practiced in 31 African countries, the Middle East, but also in others in Asia, Latin America and in communities around the world in these regions. They are a heinous violation of the rights of girls and girls that can have serious health consequences and even lead to death. Victims are then exposed to the risks of early marriage and early school leaving, thus threatening any possible dignified future for themselves.

A widespread phenomenon in Europe as well. An obviously illegal practice in the European Union, but an estimated 600,000 women living in Europe are or have been victims of this practice and another 180,000 are at risk in 13 European countries. In addition, the long period of the pandemic has accentuated the phenomenon by the closure of schools, confinement at home and the interruption of protection services for girls. “We are losing ground in the fight to end this custom which has dire consequences for millions of girls,” said Nankali Maksud, ofUNICEF – When girls are unable to access vital services, schools and community networks, their risk of female genital mutilation increases, threatening their health and future. On the occasion of the International Day of Zero Tolerance on Female Genital Mutilation (February 6), Maksud added, “We all need to commit to targeted, well-funded action needed to get back on track and put an end to this practice wherever it is practiced.”

According to the latest available data. An alarming trend is manifesting itself: one in four girls and women who have suffered female genital mutilation, or 52 million worldwide, have been put into practice at the hands of health professionals. This proportion is double among adolescents, which indicates a growth in the medicalization of the practice. Of the 31 countries that provide data on female genital mutilation, 15 are already struggling with wars or internal conflicts, with poverty and inequality, immersed in a crisis of crisis involving marginalized girls and girls around the world. In some countries, female genital mutilation is still almost universal, with about 90% of girls. It happens in Djibouti, Guinea, Mali and Somalia, above all. In about half of the countries, female genital mutilation is performed at an increasingly younger age, reducing the chances of intervention. For example, in Kenya, the average age to practice has dropped from 12 to 9 years over the past three decades.

But progress is possible. Today, girls are one-third less likely to suffer from female genital mutilation than three decades ago; however, progress must be at least 10 times faster if the global elimination target for 2030 is to be achieved. But the current reality offers us another scenario: in the last two decades, in fact, the percentage of girls and women in high-incidence countries who oppose this practice has doubled. “Ensuring girls’ access to education, health care and employment is key to accelerating the elimination of female genital mutilation and enabling girls to contribute to equitable social and economic development, ”a document says. spread by UNICEF.

Kenyan girls rebel. “I did not know what was happening. I couldn’t speak, I saw how they did it to my sister. Soon it would be my turn, I could not allow my body to be broken. This is the starting line of the poem “FGM / C, a wild practice”, Shared on the occasion of the International Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Mutilation written by some girls who go to primary school in Sintakara, Kenya. In fact, the institute is involved in the national program of WeWorldan organization committed for 50 years to guaranteeing the rights of women and children in 25 countries around the world, including Italy, to combat female genital mutilation and early marriage, by strengthening the skills of students, from the first levels of instruction. .

The situation in Kenya. In fact, in the East African country – although FGM / C has been a banned practice since 2011 – it is estimated that 21% of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to this practice, especially in Somali communities. , Masai and Kisii (prevalent in Narok, Migori and Isiolo counties, where he works WeWorld). A figure, so far, not only unchanged from previous years, but is destined to get worse due to the pandemic. “We have something submerged,” said Annarita Spagnuolo, the country’s representative in Kenya. WeWorld – in fact, the problem not only persists but has worsened during the spread of the coronavirus. The schools, which for us are the first checkpoint and the place where we raise awareness, have been closed for many months in 2020. The lack of such an important school has had its impact: the country has focused on the fight against the spread of the pandemic and the guard has been lowered in other respects, such as abuse and violence against girls and women, which have increased ”.

New awareness among the new generations.I saw them jump, jump and howl, so happy with themselves. No, no, no, that won’t happen to me”The poem written by the girls continues. Among the new generations there is much more awareness of the risks involved in undergoing FGM / C. During and after circumcision, girls can have several side effects, such as excessive bleeding, anemia, and difficulty urinating, and combined with preadolescent pregnancies and a severe shortage of safe childbirth services, FGM contributes to the deaths of 510 mothers by per 100,000 births (in Italy it affects only 4 women per 100,000). In addition, female genital mutilation is a practice strictly linked to education: once the cut is made, girls will be considered ready to become brides.

And there are those who are saved. “I was not subjected to female genital mutilation because my father, after attending an awareness course, understood the risks I was taking and opposed it – says Purity, activist along with WeWorld today in Kenya, thanks to him, I am also working hard to raise awareness in my community, to explain to girls the health complications of this practice and more. If this practice were completely eliminated, girls could continue their studies and complete their education without incurring marriages, early pregnancies or health complications. “I fled like a gazelle chased by a lion – the poem ends – I know they’re still waiting to get me, but no, no, I won’t, I’ll still be a complete woman. FGM / C is a ruthless act, not for this generation“.

The work of WeWorld in Kenya. The NGO has been present in Kenya since 2009. It works in the areas of food security, protection of children’s rights, education and health. In Kenya, we are helping to end FGM / C and child marriage by making information about the harms of these regressive practices available to the entire community by creating awareness and sensitization. The intervention aims to improve the quality of education and promote the schooling of as many girls and boys as possible and thus prepare a better future. WeWorld works on 170 projects reaching more than 10.5 million direct beneficiaries and 71.8 million indirect beneficiaries. It is active in Italy, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Libya, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Benin, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mali, Niger, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Cuba, Peru, India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia.

Some of the planned initiatives. On the occasion of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Tuesday, February 8 at 10 a.m. There is no peace without justice (NPSG) e Area present the event online “Outside of ‘The Bush School’: acting against FGM in Liberia and beyond”, Which will be done through Zoom. From the screening of the documentary “The Bush school“-” La scuola nel bosco “(2020), by Italian journalist and director Emanuela Zuccalà, will discuss the effectiveness of legal instruments and policies against FGM / C and how to improve them, with the presentation of the recent report by 28 Too much “Law and FGM / C – Europe“(December 2021). The presentation of the documentary will therefore be the basis for a broader debate on the fight against FGM, both in Liberia and in Europe and the rest of the world.

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