UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, has condemned the practice of female genital mutilation, saying it was not acceptable in the 21st century.
Wickramanayake spoke at an international forum in the Gambia on strategies to combat the practice, a day ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.
The UN youth envoy underscored that the ghastly practice was an aversion to the human rights of millions and kept them from achieving their full potential.
“This is not acceptable and this is done in the name of tradition, culture, religion or in the name of ensuring that women are to take on subservient roles to the men they will eventually marry.
“This is not acceptable in the 21st century,” Wickramanayake said.
Globally, over 200 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone some form of genital mutilation and girls aged 14 and younger account for about 44 million of those who have been “cut.”
According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), although the practice is declining in many countries where it is prevalent, many of these countries also experience a high rate of population growth.
This means that the number of girls who undergo genital mutilation will continue to grow if efforts are not significantly scaled up, UNFPA said.
UN Member States had called for eliminating female genital mutilation as well as other harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – target 5.3.
Countries have also stepped up their efforts with Gambia banning it in November 2015 and subsequently criminalising female genital mutilation.
Many other African countries also now have legislation that that forbids the practice.
In addition to implementing the law, the youth envoy also called on all countries and stakeholders to address any existing gaps in their legal frameworks and reiterated the support from the UN in overcoming the harmful practice.
“History has taught us that human societies can come up with reprehensible social practices – that are justified under false guises – to strengthen the power structures or maintain the status quo for certain groups in society.
“Luckily we also know that social practice is not static and that it can change as our understanding evolves,” she said.
Marked annually on Feb. 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation aims to strengthen momentum towards ending the practice.
The practice is globally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women that perpetuates deep-rooted inequality between the sexes.