International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

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2024 Date6 February 2024
2025 Date6 February 2025

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation in
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The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is dedicated to raising awareness about this harmful practice, its extreme health risks and violation of a woman's rights. Recognized by the United Nations (UN), this Observance calls for intensified, coordinated efforts worldwide to eradicate FGM. A critical focus is to support better education, changing cultural practices, and legal measures to help protect millions of girls and women.

This observance dates back to 2003 when the UN first began a substantial campaign against FGM. This is especially relevant in India, where, although FGM is not widely practiced amongst the majority, it is still prevalent in some communities. The Dawoodi Bohra community, a Shia Muslim sect, has been reported to practice a form of FGM called "khatna" that has drawn both international and national attention to the issue. The majority of India, however, remains largely unaware of this practice.

In India, organizations and activists mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation by conducting educational programs, engaging with the media, and holding campaigns to raise awareness about the physical and psychological consequences of FGM. Various NGOs, activists, and medical professionals actively advocate to outlaw the practice, urging for comprehensive legislation. While there is no specific date for observation specific to India, this day is globally observed each year on February 6th as established by the UN.

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Facts about this United Nations observance

  • The theme for International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in 2024 was No Time for Global Inaction: Unite, Fund, and Act to end FGM.
  • According to the UNICEF, in 2023, about 4.2 million women were at risk of Female Genital Mutilation in more than 31 countries.
  • According to the U.N, girls who undergo female genital mutilation can face short-term complications such as severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, and infection. They may also face long-term complications regarding their sexual and reproductive health.
  • In 2017, the first case against FGM in India was filed in the Supreme Court (SC) by Sunita Tiwari, a lawyer and activist, seeking a ban on the practice. The SC referred the case to a constitutional bench for further deliberation.
  • There is growing resistance against FGM within the Dawoodi Bohra community, with more parents opting not to subject their daughters to the practice. This change in mindset is due in part to the efforts of anti-FGM activists and increasing awareness about the harmful effects of the practice.

Top things to do in India for this observance

  • Traditional values and practices can be harmful especially if those practices carry unnecessary risk. It is believed that older generations are more likely to carry on such traditions despite scientific evidence against them. According to the U.N, adolescent girls aged 15-19 are less supportive of female genital mutilation than women aged 45-49. The U.N recommends investing in youth-led movements to help achieve gender equality and to eliminate violence against women and girls. Learn how you can become involved in their latest campaign Generation Equality.
  • Learn more about the health risks of female genital mutilation and how you can help prevent the practice of it.
  • Read a book to learn more about FGM:
    Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad - by Waris Dirie
    The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World - By Nawal El Saadawi
  • Attend Film Screenings: You could organize or attend film screenings that tackle the issue of FGM to educate and spread awareness among the people. Documentaries like "The Cut" & "Desert Flower" are some alternatives.

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