On February 6 we observe International Day for Zero Tolerance on female genital mutilation (FGM). This day stands as a sobering reminder that as of writing, countless girls and women are being forced to undergo unthinkable horrors. Every year, millions of instances of FGM are carried out, wherein female genitalia are cut, mutilated or altered for non-medical reasons.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around three million girls undergo some form of genital mutilation every year, and annually they join a staggering 200 million women who have already had it performed. With numbers this high, two of the most pertinent questions we face today is why is this still happening, and what can we do to put an end to it.

The WHO has determined that cases of FGM predominately take place in Africa (where in certain countries like Somalia the number is as high as 98%), the Middle East and Asia, but there are cases reported all over the world, such as when Irish authorities confirmed in 2017 that thousands of women were being subjected to FGM within its borders.

The United Nations reported worrying statistics, highlighting just how out of hand the violent practice has become. Among it’s findings, the organisation reported that:

  1. Most cases of FGM are carried out on girls between infancy and the age of 15
  2. Other than Somalia, countries with high numbers of FGM include Guinea at 97%, Djibouti at 93% and Indonesia where roughly half of girls under the age of 11 have undergone FGM
  3. FGM undoubtedly causes health risks including infections and infertility due to complications

The reasons for FGM are varied and complex. Among them are traditionalist and religious motives. In some cultures women undergo FGM because it’s believed that it diminishes promiscuity and enhances the sexual prowess. It is for the latter two reasons that people are fighting for FGM to stop, as it holds no place in 21st-century thinking.

Although the FGM is a crisis still in full swing, along with many other rights violations that women suffer from in Africa and around the world, continued conversation and awareness will effect change eventually. Click here for more insightful thoughts on FGM and the myths that surround it.