Saturday, December 22, 2012

UN General Assembly Resolutions Against Female Genital Mutilation

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the passing of an “historic” United Nations resolution yesterday calling on countries to eliminate female genital mutilation, adding that the move was an important step towards a world free from violence against women.  “Harmful practices, such as genital mutilation, constitute a serious threat to the health of millions of women and girls worldwide and violate their fundamental rights,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.  

In a series of five resolutions passed yesterday by the General Assembly, the UN body took what it described as “groundbreaking” action against the brutal practice which has affected an estimated 140 million women worldwide, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO). 

Female genital mutilation/cutting refers to several different harmful practices involving the cutting of the female genitals for non-medical reasons. The procedure – which often causes severe bleeding and problems urinating, cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths – is characterized by the WHO in four types: clitoridectomy, or the partial or total removal of the clitoris; excision, or the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora; infibulations, or the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris; and all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes. 

“The resolutions approved yesterday urge countries to condemn all harmful practices that affect women and girls, in particular female genital mutilation, and to take all necessary measures, including enforcing legislation, awareness-raising and allocating sufficient resources to protect women and girls from this form of violence,” the statement added. 

Pointing to diverse initiatives – such as the COMMIT launched by UN Women and the Secretary-General’s own UNiTE to End Violence against Women, which works in collaboration with governments and civil society to advance legislation and social mobilization – the statement further noted that ending violence against women remained a priority for the Secretary-General during his second term mandate.

At a news conference held yesterday to mark the resolutions’ passing at UN Headquarters in New York, the representative of Burkina Faso, Der Kogda, acknowledged that the resolution, “strengthening the global effort to eradicate female genital mutilation,” had been adopted by consensus.  

Sponsored by two thirds of the Member States, including the Group of African States, the text condemns the practice, recognizing it as harmful to women and girls and a serious threat to their health.  States were also urged to condemn female genital mutilation to protect women against all forms of violence.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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