Africa: UN Renews Push to Abolish Female Genital Mutilation

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(file photo).

On this International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, the United Nations is calling for the eradication of the traditional practice, which causes extreme physical and psychological harm to millions of women and girls worldwide.

The United Nations says more than 200 million girls and women in 30 countries are currently living with the harmful and dangerous consequences of female genital mutilation. Young girls between infancy and 15 years of age are subjected to the practice, which mainly occurs in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The World Health Organization reports FGM confers no benefits, only serious problems, including severe bleeding, infections, complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

Irrefutable evidence exists regarding the many serious life-long health consequences that arise from the procedure. Nevertheless, the WHO reports the practice persists because of myths and misconceptions.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said one dangerous myth is that only girls who undergo the procedure can enter womanhood and be considered respectable.

She said people often believe there is little risk of harm for girls and women if female genital mutilation is performed by a doctor or other health care professional.

"This is not the truth.WHO is completely against any health worker helping to do this practice. FGM is a harmful practice and may lead to physical, mental and sexual health complications regardless of who performs it," said Chaib.

FGM is far from being eradicated. But, Chaib told VOA slow progress is being made in communities around the world. She cites the case of Sudan, a country that has a high level of FGM.

With the help of several U.N. agencies and financing from Britain and Ireland, she said, the practice is becoming more rare in communities across the country.

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