More than 125 million women and girls are living with the consequences of female genital mutilation/cutting, also known as FGM/C. Most were age 15 or younger when it happened.
“We can’t let the staggering numbers numb us — they must compel us to act,” Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF, has said.
FGM/C is concentrated in 29 countries, mostly in Africa and the Middle East, but it is also practiced in diaspora communities in other parts of the world. According to UNICEF, another 30 million girls may be subjected to FGM/C in the next 10 years.
“There’s no excuse. … I don’t consider that a tradition worth hanging on to.” — President Obama
FGM/C has no basis in any religion, nor does it confer any health benefits. Rather, it is rooted in deeply held cultural beliefs about women’s and girls’ health, hygiene, sexuality and place in society. No matter how entrenched these beliefs may be, the consequences of FGM/C are devastating. The pain and trauma of the initial procedure can lead to a lifetime of physical, sexual and psychological suffering.
The United States supports community-based approaches involving all members of society as the best way to change attitudes about FGM/C. When men, community leaders, religious leaders and even cutters come to understand the long-term harm FGM/C causes, they can become effective activists for eradication.
February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. Raise your voice against FGM/C by posting a photo of yourself making a zero sign on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or Facebook using #TogetherForZero and #endFGM.