A group of 30 survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM), belonging to a particular community, has started an online campaign against the practice and to put pressure on the government to bring a law to ban it. The group, ‘Speak Out on FGM‘, has launched the petition on ‘Change.org’ website, and claimed to have received over forty thousand signatures already.
Female genital mutilation refers to several different harmful practices involving the cutting of the female genitals for non-medical reasons. In December 2012, the UN General Assembly unanimously voted to work for the elimination of FGM, reckoned as a violation of human rights.
The group is launching another campaign, ‘Each One-Reach One’, on February 6, observed as Female Genital Mutilation Day, to reach out to the people and raise awareness about it. “This is an effort to wipe out this custom from our community. I am happy that thousands of survivors are joining this campaign not only from India, but also from Canada, Australia, South Africa, Britain, etc,” A survivor told PTI.
She said, “At the age of seven, I was subjected to FGM in Mumbai in an unhygienic condition and clandestine manner. The shock and the physical and psychological trauma of that day are still fresh in my mind.” “We have also launched several WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages, which have received overwhelming response from across the globe,” said the survivor, who is now 53 and working with a publishing company.
Survivors maintained the reason for the tradition of FGM is to curb sexual drive of women and control them. They claimed FGM has nothing to do with religion and is more of a cultural practice. According to the World Health Organisation, between 100 million and 140 million women and girls across the world are thought to be living with the consequences of FGM.
“This is the first time that survivors in India have joined hands to publicly campaign against this horrific practice,” said Preethi Herman, Country Lead, change.org. The message of this campaign is loud and clear. FGM needs to be banned, she added.
At least 200 million girls and women in 30 countries are estimated to have undergone female circumcision, half of them in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia, the UN children’s agency has said in a report. The UNICEF statistical report said the global figure includes nearly 70 million more girls and women than it estimated in 2014. It said this is due to population growth in some countries and new data from Indonesia.
The UN General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution in December 2012 calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation, a centuries-old practice stemming from the belief that circumcising girls controls women’s sexuality and enhances fertility. One of the targets in the new UN goals adopted last September calls for the practice to be eliminated by 2030.
While there has been an overall decline in the prevalence of female genital mutilation over the last three decades, UNICEF said it isn’t enough to keep up with increasing population growth. If current trends continue, it warned that the number of girls and women undergoing FGM “will rise significantly over the next 15 years.” In the 30 countries, UNICEF said the majority of girls were circumcised before reaching their fifth birthdays. “In Yemen, 85 per cent of girls experienced the practice within their first week of life,” the agency said.
According to the data, girls under the age of 14 represent an estimated 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence in this age group in Gambia at 56 per cent, Mauritania at 54 per cent and Indonesia where about half of girls aged 11 or under have undergone the practice.
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