UN day of awarenss for female genital mutilation aims to end practice

World Today

More than 125 million women have undergone female genital mutilation, according to UNICEF. Despite efforts to stop the practice, it’s still prevalent in many countries. CCTV America’s U.N. Correspond Liling Tan reported this story from New York.

It’s a topic that’s hard to think about – and even harder to talk about. The procedure involves the removal of female genitals and result in infections, reproductive complications, and increased risks of death for newborns. The practice stretches from Africa to Southeast Asia, and to the United States, where it was outlawed almost 20 years ago.

Warning: Some the following video may be disturbing to some viewers.

As the United Nations marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, one woman is fighting to eradicate the practice in Senegal and around the world.

Senegal-born activist and hip-hop artist Fatou Diatta, known by her stage name “Sister Fa,” is trying to educate communities one by one.

Her documentary “Sarabah” is just one of her efforts.

“Most of the result I’m looking for is to save the future generation,” Sister Fa said. “We have to convince them not to cut their children. We’re not using the word today “mutilation” because it has a very powerful sense. Our mother did not mutilate us. They cut us because they wanted us to be accepted.

UK-based activist group Orchid Project said the subject remains taboo in many communities.

“We’re talking about vaginas. Not often are we allowed to say that. And least of all in some of these communities where they are very private. So that’s one key challenge,” Orchid Project founder Julia Lalla-Maharajh said. “The second thing is resources. We need the world to wake up to this issue and fund the movement that is growing to allow abandonment to happen.”

Three million girls are cut every year, mostly in Africa, UNICEF found. The organization said the growing medicalization of the procedure, in which cutting is being carried out by healthcare providers, is a worrying trend.

“It’s not safe for girls, not less harmful, because it’s done by healthcare provider,” Susan Bissell, UNICEF chief of child protection said. “The life consequences for women and girls remain the same, so what we need to do is continue that advocacy. It’s our No. 1 message right now, is that that does not change the harmfulness of the practice.”

The act is also happening in Western countries like Europe and the United States. Twenty-three states outlaw the procedure, but as people have emigrated from other countries, so has the practice. The Washington D.C.-based Population Reference Bureau found that girls from immigrant families are being sent abroad for the procedure.

Activist groups have said progress is being made, and they are confident with continued support from policymakers, they can meet the goal of ending the practice within this generation.