The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, observed on 6 February, is dedicated to raising awareness of an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls.
Female genital mutilation, a procedure that involves altering or injuring female genitalia for non-medical reasons, is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of women. Yet 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM – and millions more around the world are at risk.
FGM reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and violates rights to health, physical integrity and security, as well as the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman treatment. In some cases, women lose their right to life when the procedure results in death.
It is these rights that the United Nations-led International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation seeks to protect. "Health systems and health professionals are essential to the wellbeing of societies. They provide credible, scientific and unbiased information that can help people protect themselves from violations of their rights," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
History of the day
On February 6 2003, Stella Obasanjo, the former first lady of Nigeria and spokesperson for the Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation, made the official declaration on "Zero Tolerance to FGM" in Africa during a conference organised by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children.
The UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights adopted the day as an international awareness day.
Since the issue of FGM was brought to light, progress has been made in eliminating the procedure. Last year, the UK hosted the first Girl Summit, to galvanise international efforts to eradicate FGM and child marriage.
This article was first published
on February 6, 2015