Female Genital Mutilation Affecting 3.6M Girls Annually

The 29 Countries Where FGM is Most Common and the Percentage of Girls Affected ©UNICEF

The 29 Countries Where FGM is Most Common and the Percentage of Girls Affected © UNICEF

July 22, 2014 – The number of girls who will undergo female genital mutilation is set to increase by at least 15 percent in the coming decades, data released on Tuesday by the UN children’s agency shows.

The practice of FGM is most common in 29 countries in the Middle East and Africa with some 133 million women and girls living today having undergone the practice, according to UNICEF.

The risks of FGM, which is typically carried out between infancy and the age of 15, include infertility, complications in childbirth and an increased risk of newborn deaths.

“In addition to excruciating pain, cutting can cause girls to bleed profusely,” the agency said. “It may also lead to infections, including HIV, since typically the same unsterilized blade is used for all girls being cut.”

While the practice has been reduced in a number of the 29 countries, 90 percent or more girls born in Egypt, Djibouti, Guinea and Somalia have been cut.

UNICEF projects that by 2050 one in three child births will occur in the 29 countries where FGM is practiced with almost 500 million more women and girls living in those countries than there are today.

The agency projects that if the rate of decline in FGM is maintained, the number of girls affected annually will go from 3.6 million today to 4.1 million in 2050 but if there is no progress it will increase to 6.6 million.

More than half the female population in Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gambia and Egypt think the practice should continue but in 19 of the 29 countries most women and girls think it should end, according to UNICEF’s research.

Prevalence in Somalia stands at 98 percent, where the number of girls and women will more than double by 2050 while in Mali, where prevalence is 89 per cent, the female population will nearly triple.

UNICEF cites Kenya and Tanzania as positive examples – countries where FGM was highly prevalent in 1990, but despite a surge in the number of women and girls born since then, the number who have undergone FGM has declined from 1990 figures.

It says that “finding ways to make hidden attitudes” favoring the abandonment of FGM more visible is key to eliminating the practice.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Children Now Allowed Complain Directly to UN Rights Committee

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June 10, 2014 – Now that ten countries have ratified the third optional protocol of the Child Rights Convention, children and teenagers may lodge complaints directly with the UN.

Belgium became the eleventh country to ratify the treaty late last month but it was Costa Rica’s accession in January that allowed the protocol to come into force in April, three months after the tenth country ratified it.

Only children and teenagers in the eleven countries that have ratified the protocol can make a complaint to the Child Rights Committee and, like other international human rights mechanisms, only after domestic remedies have been exhausted.

Violations must also have taken place after April 14th when the protocol came into force.

The eleven countries, on four continents, that have ratified optional protocol 3 are Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand.

The office of the UN envoy for child rights has produced a child-friendly guide to understanding the optional protocol procedure for making complaints.

When the General Assembly were debating the text of the optional protocol in 2011, there was much discussion on the capacity of children to make complaints to an international group with some states arguing that complaints should be brought by parents on behalf of their children while others argued that parents are not always the best advocates as they may be the offenders.

Central to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that children have a right to express their views at any age but in practice it is more likely that future complaints brought before the committee will be submitted on behalf of the children by their parents, a lawyer or others.

A major impetus in drafting optional protocol 3 was to encourage states to provide domestic mechanisms to address complaints by children of human rights abuses.

– Denis Fitzgerald 
On Twitter @denisfitz