February 6th: International Day of Zero Tolerance on FGM
February 6 was unanimously adopted at the International Conference on Zero Tolerance to FGM organized by IAC from February 4 to 6, 2003 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Representatives at the Conference came from 49 countries including 4 First Ladies (from Nigeria , Burkina Faso , Guinea Conakry and Mali ), Ministers, and Parliamentarians. Others included Religious, Community and Youth leaders.
Since 2003, the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (IAC) with her National Committees in 28 African countries, Affiliates and Partners across the world in Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and USA.calls on Governments, Parliamentarians, UN Agencies, NGOs, donor community, Religious leaders, Community leaders, Youth, communities and members of the Press to make a greater commitment to ensure the elimination of FGM.
The objective of observing February 6 is to draw the attention, at the international and national levels to efforts that need to be exerted to free women and girls from female genital mutilation and to accelerate action towards its elimination by the set target date of 2010 according to theCommon Agenda for Action or by 2015 being the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Different activities organized on this day to mark the event include press conference, theatre show and songs by a school club in Addis Ababa Headquarters of IAC, panel discussions in Addis Ababa and in Geneva Liaison office highlighting FGM as a tradition that should be eliminated being a violation of the human rights of women and girls.
February 6 as the international day on Zero Tolerance to FGM has come to stay and it would be a reminder to governments for their commitments towards accelerating actions to eliminate the menace.
Until Zero Tolerance is achieved, the day will continue to be observed around the world to draw global, national and community attention to the provisions in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of women (Maputo Protocol Article 5) and other UN Conventions which support the promotion of the Human Rights of women and children and the elimination of FGM.
Why focus on FGM?
Female Genital Mutilation refers to any practice that involves the partial or total removal or alteration of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is a form of violence against Women and a violation of the human rights' principles, as stipulated in Article 24.3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), other International and Regional instruments and theProtocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights Relating to the Rights of Women, (Article 5). The Millennium Development Goals advocate for the promotion of Gender Equality and Empowerment of women, reduction of child mortality and improvement of maternal health.
By a conservative estimate, about 2 million women and girls are subjected to FGM worldwide with devastating consequences. Studies have shown a correlation between FGM and the high infant and maternal mortality and morbidity in African countries where FGM is prevalent. There is also clinical evidence that FGM presents a serious risk in the transmission of HIV/AIDS, especially among societies who practice it as an initiation rite using the same instruments on many girls at the same time.