Since 2012, February 6 has been the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This violence has been performed on more than 200 million girls and women worldwide. It is estimated that by the year 2023, 4.32 million girls will be at risk of undergoing FGM.
A WIDESPREAD PRACTICE IN 31 COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD
The practice is widespread in 31 countries on three continents (mainly in Africa and the Middle East, but also in Asia and Latin America). 50% of FGC victims live in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.
Many factors contribute to the prevalence of female genital mutilation. In some societies, it is seen as a way to control girls’ sexuality and ensure their chastity. In others, it is a prerequisite for marriage or inheritance. Where the practice is the most prevalent, it is often seen as a rite of passage for girls and religious beliefs are frequently invoked to “justify” it.
Some progress has been made in the past 30 years to eradicate the practice. In many countries, girls and young women are at much lower risk than previous generations of women.
However, this progress is very uneven across the world. According to UNICEF, more than 90 percent of women and girls in Guinea and Somalia still undergo some form of female genital mutilation or female circumcision.
A MAJOR CHALLENGE: DENOUNCING THE MEDICALIZATION OF MGF
Approximately one in four girls or women who have undergone female genital mutilation (52 million victims of FGM worldwide) have been mutilated by a health worker, according to a recent UNICEF analysis.
This proportion is twice as high among female teenagers: 34 percent of FGM victims aged 15-19 have undergone medicalized FGM, compared to 16 percent of victims aged 45-49, indicating an increase in the medicalization of the practice.
This increase stems from a mistaken belief that the dangers of FGM are medical rather than a fundamental violation of girls’ rights. Medicalizing the practice of FGM does not eliminate the danger it represents to women: a physical as well as a psychological risk and an unbearable assault on the integrity of women’s bodies.
ASSOCIATIONS SUPPORTED BY FEMINISTS IN ACTION THAT ARE MOBILIZING IN THE FIELD
IN BURKINA FASO
In Burkina Faso, a 2015 study shows that 67.3% of women aged 15-49 and 11% of girls under 14 have undergone FGC. The Réseau pour la Promotion de la Femme Rurale (Network for the Promotion of Rural Women) is conducting a project to prevent and combat these practices in the provinces of Zoundwéogo and Kourwéogo.
Planned actions include the promotion of sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), sensitization of the population on gender-based violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, social exclusion of pregnant girls before customary marriage and the organization of community dialogues with religious and customary leaders.
One of the objectives is to conduct educational talks on domestic violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation and the social exclusion of pregnant girls. These activities will be organized with young couples to prevent domestic violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation. Groups of women, men and mixed groups will be formed in the villages and will participate in facilitation sessions on the relationship between women and men.
In Guinea, the living conditions of girls and children are also characterized by harmful traditional practices including female genital mutilation and early marriage. These practices are very common despite the existence of numerous laws prohibiting them. They are a source of violations of girls’ and women’s rights and contribute to maintaining gender inequalities.
The 2012 Mixed Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) indicates that 97% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone female genital mutilation. 22% of girls get married before 15 and 63% before their 18th birthday. 390,376 girls under age 15 are still subjected to FGM each year.
It is in this context that the Club des Jeunes Filles Leaders de Guinée (Club of Young Girls Leaders of Guinea) is implementing a project to improve access to information for girls and women on their rights and on the laws that condemn gender-based violence. The objective is to popularize legal texts and to significantly improve knowledge of existing protection services in Guinea for better care and support of victims, particularly through community awareness campaigns.
Feminists in Action supports the mobilization of civil society organizations that defend the inalienable right of women to control their own bodies. Discover them on our directory.