International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

Posted by Melanne Verveer
February 6, 2011
Detail of UNICEF Poster on Female Genital Mutilation

About the Author: Melanne Verveer serves as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues.

February 6 marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. We join with activists and survivors around the world to call for an end to this horrific practice. Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is sometimes called female genital cutting, is one extreme form of violence carried out against women and girls. It is not limited to ethnicity, race, class, religion, or education level. 100 million to 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation, and more than 3 million girls are at risk each year on the African continent alone, according to U.N. estimates.

As Secretary Clinton has noted time and time again, human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights. FGM, an act rooted in the unequal status of women and girls and one which endangers their health and dignity, is a fundamental violation of human rights. The procedure is usually carried out on adolescent girls before they reach puberty and can affect a woman throughout her life span. It poses severe physical and psychological health risks for women and young girls -- including maternal mortality infection, infertility, incontinence, further complicated childbirths, and maternal mortality.

In too many cultures FGM is an deeply entrenched practice. Therefore efforts to end it must include educating and enlightening all members of society to understand FGM for the harmful and destructive practice it is. We commend the work of advocates and organizations who have made progress to eliminate FGM. Senegal, for example, adopted a law that was influenced by the grassroots efforts of villagers. Whole village communities went through a process of debate and discussion led by the village leaders, including religious leaders. As a result of their work, this harmful tradition has been abandoned in many villages across West Africa. A similar community awareness and discussion process has been effectively adopted by communities in Egypt. For example, one large community in the north recently held a community “declaration” ceremony after months of education and discussion on the harmful practice. The ceremony included: statements by community members on why they will not force this practice on their daughters; personal stories about the harmful impacts; and the signing of a declaration against FGM. In 2008, the Egyptian Parliament passed a law banning female circumcision. According to a news report, most Islamic scholars welcomed the decision, saying it was long overdue to outlaw a practice that needed to be ended.

While recognizing this progress, much work remains. The Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues and the U.S. Department of State are committed to continuing efforts to respond to and prevent gender-based violence worldwide, including the elimination of female genital mutilation. We encourage communities and nations to do their utmost to end this destructive practice.



Miria B.
February 6, 2011

Miria B. in Italy writes:


julie a.
New York, USA
February 7, 2011

Julie A. in New York writes:

Great article! Important issue! I'm sharing this article with my friends.

Hanif B.
February 7, 2011

Hanif B. in Pakistan writes:

This is the worst sort of crime. Being a Muslim I condemn this horrific practice

February 7, 2011

G. writes:

Of course, men deserve no such protection! What a joke!

End the hypocrisy and protect ALL children, not just girls, from genital cutting.

United Kingdom
February 7, 2011

Elisa writes:

This must be stopped!

kanchane b.
Sri Lanka
February 7, 2011

Kanchane B. in Sri Lanka writes:

People who practice this idiotic act should cut or remove more organs/parts like nails ,eyes etc etc.

We have blessed with a wonderful body with no part is unimportant.

Lynn S.
District Of Columbia, USA
February 7, 2011

Lynn S. in Washington writes:

This is abuse of the worst kind and cannot be tolerated!!!

Tera W.
Michigan, USA
February 7, 2011

Tera W. in Michigan writes:

Women should have the right to sexual pleasure just as men do. The practice of genital mutilation often aims to eliminate a women's ability to have pleasure in sex, which is completely unfair. Also, we need to work towards making genital mutilation and unhealthy circumcisions for men illegal. This is not only a women's issue, but a human rights issue.

Mashua F.
February 17, 2011

Mashua Against FGM writes:

Thank you so much ambassador and your office at large.

Rashima J.
New Jersey, USA
February 17, 2011

Rashima J. in New Jersey writes:

It is very heartening to know that you Ambassador and your office are so committed to ending FGM .

Harry O.
February 18, 2011

Harry O. in Israel writes:

"There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam & that’s it."
- Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan (Kanal D TV’s Arena program Aug., 2007)

New York, USA
February 27, 2011

Jack in New York writes:

Boys must also have the right to all of their natural body. Cutting off parts of a baby boys penis is WRONG. All genital mutilation of children must end.

March 2, 2011

T.J. in Canada writes:

When will this right of protection against genital mutilation be extended to protect BOYS as well as girls? The laws, as they stand, constitute sexual discrimination! Boys deserve the same protection as girls from having their genitalia surgically altered without their personal, fully-informed, consent: That means NO NEONATAL CIRCUMCISION!

Washington, USA
April 3, 2011

Leece in Washington writes:

@ TJ in Canada, you need to do your homework. It is highly offensive that you feel male neonatal circumcision (MNC) is even remotely the same thing as female genital mutilation (FGM).

MNC has an endless list of health benefits and has more than just a little religious support lol (the three most practiced religions in world all support MNC or believe the practice is of 'devine nature'.)

FGM has not one single health benefit and has been known to cause death (severe trauma, loss of sexual pleasure, loss of sexual interest, chronic pain, etc)

MNC and FGM are not the same thing. MNC would be 'similar' if boys were being forced (right before puberty) to have a large piece of their penis' removed (in order to be equivalent to FGM, the section removed would have to be the entire underside of the penis, because females have their entire clitoris removed, therefore males would have to have their entire external source of pleasure removed.), then the testicles would need to be stitched to the pubic area to cover the penis (women subject to FGM have their labia majoras' stitched closed because this prevents them from having sex before marriage).

If MNC required actions as ruthless as FGM, then yes TJ you could argue that the international day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation should if fact fight to protect males from forced circumcision. But really dude, how dare you compare those two causes. Besides, you will NEVER EVER win that fight; many people support circumcision for males after birth for good reasons.

North Carolina, USA
April 14, 2011

James in North Carolina writes:

We, the Student Coalition on Female Genital Mutilation, strongly support the actions of the US Dept. of state in its efforts to recognize the impact of this practice on an international scale. Provision of education surrounding this practice is an important piece of our political agenda as well. We are relieved to see such a strong foundation of providing this much needed service as part of the platform of the State Department’s position as well.

It was rewarding to hear the stories about ways that education surrounding this practice led to either the ending of the practice or increased presence of choice for women. We stand in solidarity with the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues in their efforts to educate and inform populations where FGM is still in practice.


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