International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation falls on February 6 each year. Despite being in the 21st century, it’s deeply disturbing that this violent tradition still exists. You’d be surprised how common it is — from Africa and Eastern Europe to Arab countries, Asia, and Latin America. Removing external female genitalia has roots in thousands of years of gender inequality. Some cultures view it as a rite of passage into womanhood. Others practice it to control a woman’s sexuality and pleasure. The U.N. General Assembly has declared February 6 as International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation to raise awareness about this humanitarian crisis.
History of International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation refers to the complete or partial removal of external female genitalia. It involves piercing and cutting off the clitoris, or sewing shut all or part of a girl’s or woman’s external genitals.
The world continues to fail its female population where approximately 200 million girls and women have undergone genital mutilation to date, a number that continues to rise.
Although historians are divided on where the practice originated, female genital mutilation was prevalent before the establishment of Islam or Christianity. Not only has it been around for a long time, but several communities around the world still practice it. Instances of female genital mutilation are common in Sub-Saharan and Arab countries.
Female genital mutilation can severely impact the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls. Women subjected to genital mutilation are at risk of postpartum hemorrhage, fetal death, obstructed labor, and HIV infection.
The psychological effects of female genital mutilation are insidious and long-lasting. Residual trauma can lead to behavioral issues in children, debilitating anxiety, stress, and sexual dysfunction.
How has the practice continued for so long? One of the primary forces driving this violent practice is the fear of social stigma. Social norms that condone female genital mutilation are layered and complex across geographic locations which makes tackling the issue doubly challenging for people and agents of change globally.
In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly declared February 6, International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. The day aims to generate awareness and intensify efforts to end the practice worldwide. There are strong reasons to believe female genital mutilation could end in a single generation.
International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation timeline
Mummies in Ancient Egypt carry tell-tale signs of genital mutilation.
Herodotus documents the practice of circumcision among Ethiopians, Hittites, and Phoenicians.
The surgical removal of the clitoris is commonly used in Western Europe and the United States to treat hysteria, nymphomania, epilepsy, masturbation, and melancholia.
The U.N. General Assembly announces February 6 as the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.
International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation FAQs
What is the meaning of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation?
Female Genital Mutilation is a violent, invasive practice that involves the total or partial removal of external female genitalia. Several countries have declared zero tolerance for it – meaning that the practice is now illegal.
Is infant male circumcision considered mutilation?
Since circumcision typically takes place without consent or reasonable cause, it may be considered mutilation.
When is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation?
The U.N. General Assembly designated February 6 of every year, since 2012, International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. The day aims to raise efforts to end the practice by 2030.
How to Observe International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
Talk about it
Create awareness about the human rights challenges faced by women and girls around the world. Spread the word on various social media platforms for greater reach.
Support organizations on the frontlines
Lend a helping hand to agencies, non-profit organizations, and individuals working in the field. Donate if you can or share the stories of their efforts.
Look up information around the topic of generational social and cultural conditioning around women’s bodies. Only with knowledge and understanding can we engage in the constructive dialogue needed to drive change.
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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is available in at least 370 languages.
Why International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is Important
Ending violence and policing
Women continue to fight for the fundamental right to decide what happens to their bodies. Female genital mutilation violates girls’ and women’s bodies and their right to health and security. Today is an important day to amplify their voices.
Ensuring physical and mental well-being
We have a generation of girls living the experience of having suffered unspeakable emotional and physical abuse. Using the day to acknowledge their suffering is the least we can do to take part.
Breaking intergenerational trauma
Zero tolerance to female genital mutilation seeks to interrupt the perpetual pain and damage experienced as a result of the practice. The U.N. believes that a concerted international effort can break these cycles in a single lifetime.
International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation dates