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International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

 

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Institute promotes education of human rights to eradicate such practices

06/02/2017: General House

February 6th is designated by the United Nations as the “International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation” (FGM). The Marist institution joins in this call for the elimination of the practice of FGM.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations General Assembly have all published statements and resolutions denouncing this practice.

The Marist Institution promotes the teaching of human rights, as this is one of the best ways to positively influence younger generations to progressively eliminate social practices that violate human rights. Let us educate ourselves by promoting equal rights, respect and the participation of both sexes in small educational communities and schools, which provide a cradle for learning on how to fully participate in adult society. Discrimination is one of the causes of social inequality.

It is estimated that some 200 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to FGM, and that about 3 million girls are believed to be at risk of mutilation every year. The practice of FGM can take place any time after the birth of the child, up until marriage. This practice is also known as ‘female genital cutting’, however the term ‘mutilation’ better describes the concept from a human rights perspective.

The practice of FGM has existed since ancient times. Evidence has been found of its practice from as early as 5th Century B.C in Tropical Africa, the Phillipines, Amazonian Tribes and Australia; one form of FGM was even practiced in Europe and the United States until the middle of the 20th century, as a method of treating certain ailments. Today, FGM has not disappeared and continues to be practiced in some 30 countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

It is clear that this practice does not provide any kind of benefit, but causes physical damage and lasting psychological harm, and constitutes a flagrant violation of the rights of women. FGM is carried out in communities where there is great inequality between genders, and is an example of extreme discrimination against women. Those who practice it violate the rights of health, safety and physical integrity, as well as violating the right to not be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and - if the victim dies because of the practice - violates the right to life. When practiced on young girls, FGM also violates rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

If a girl or a young person does not participate in this practice, they can be condemned in their community as well as suffering harassment and ostracism in the societies where it takes place. These communities justify the practice because they believe that the social benefits are greater than the disadvantages. The practice is seen as a sexual initiation that marks the transition from girl to woman, therefore, it supposes a cultural inheritance necessary for the upbringing of the girl and to prepare her for her adult and matrimonial life. It is considered an acceptable sexual behaviour, as it aims to ensure virginity until marriage and fidelity after it. It is also believed that undergoing FGM will help girls in finding a husband.

Those who practice this type of operation often believe that it has a religious foundation, however, FGM has no foundation in religion nor religious support, as there are no writings that support the practice. The position of religious leaders is varied: there are those who support it, others who say that it is irrelevant from a religious point of view, and others who are totally opposed. 

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Br Manel Mendoza
FMSI 

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