International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C

Photo of young girls
Genet, Tsiyon, and their friends are happy because they are the first generation in Kembata, Durame Woreda, Ethiopia, who do not have to undergo FGM/C at their young age.
Netsanet Assaye/Photoshare

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) joins the global community in observing February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for  Female Genital Mutilation, an internationally recognized day to foster awareness of the devastating effects of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) and to renew the call for the abandonment of this harmful traditional practice. The theme of the upcoming 2017 International Day on Zero Tolerance for FGM is “Achieving the new Global Goals through the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030."

Over 200 million women and girls are thought to be living with the consequences of FGM/C. In the 29 countries where the practice is most concentrated, girls who undergo FGM/C are cut before the age of 15. In half of the countries where data is available, a majority of girls are cut before they turn five. According to UNICEF, an estimated 30 million girls are at risk of being cut within the next decade.

FGM/C is practiced across cultures and religions, though no religious texts mandate the procedure. Practiced primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, prevalence data indicates the practice also occurs in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Russian Caucuses.  Due to immigrant diaspora, incidences of FGM/C also occur in the United States, Australia and in European countries.

USAID’s Support

USAID has supported FGM/C abandonment efforts since the early 1990s, considering FGM/C not only a public health issue but a violation of a woman’s right to bodily integrity. In September 2000, the Agency officially incorporated abandonment of FGM/C into its development agenda, issuing an official policy [PDF, 19KB] and strategy on FGM/C. This commitment continued in the development and implementation of U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, launched in 2012 and updated in 2016, which specifically recognizes FGM/C as a harmful practice. Combatting FGM/C, along with child, early and forced marriage, is one of the goals of the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls.Over the years, the Agency has found, through programs and research, that the process of positive social transformation can occur when programs and policies focus on enabling communities to make their own collective choice to abandon FGM/C. These efforts are enhanced by educational campaigns and policy change.

The U.S. government supports the women and men around the world who denounce this egregious practice and act to abolish it. While we have made tremendous progress over the past decade, work still lies ahead. For sustainable culture change, we must all — FGM/C survivors,  elders, FGM/C cutters, medical professionals, community and religious leaders, government officials, and members of civil society and multilateral organizations — work together to overturn deeply entrenched social norms that are not only harmful to women and girls, but to achieving global developmental outcomes. .

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