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WORLDWIDE SUPPORT FO BAN ON FGM WELCOME

Daily Monitor (Uganda) - November 25, 2010

by Mariam Lamizana*

Years of efforts to focus political will towards ending female genital mutilation (FGM) are finally coming to fruition this fall, as an increasing number of countries are showing support for the adoption of a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution to ban FGM worldwide, thus demonstrating their commitment to human rights and particularly the rights of women.
In support of this development, political and opinion leaders from 42 countries worldwide have signed an ‘Appeal to Ban FGM Worldwide,’ launched by an international coalition of NGOs.
Among the numerous prominent personalities who call for this are the First Ladies of Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Uganda, Benin, and Italy, several ministers and Nobel laureates (among whom Nadine Gordimer and Desmond Tutu), as well as legislators, political leaders and civil society activists from countries in which FGM is committed and beyond. The battle to ban FGM has been hard-fought, but significant strides have been made in recent years.
Earlier this year, members of parliaments from 19 African countries gathered in Dakar, Senegal, called on the UNGA to adopt a resolution banning FGM. The announcement was important because FGM, though a worldwide phenomenon, is most prevalent in Africa, and African nations have been at the forefront of efforts to end this human rights violation.
Notably, the African Union is the only regional organisation that has explicitly addressed FGM in a treaty: the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa requires member states to adopt all political and legislative measures necessary to completely eliminate FGM. Also, counteracting the perception that religion mandates the practice, the highest religious authorities on the continent have declared there is no such justification for FGM.
Despite this momentum, every year an estimated three million women and girls continue to be subjected to FGM, an affront to their dignity that results in enduring severe physical and psychological harm and damages their lives irreversibly. A UNGA ban would have important implications worldwide. It would serve to strengthen laws that currently ban FGM. It would provide new impetus for those nations that currently do not have such laws on the books. And it would reinforce the importance of previous declarations by UN bodies protecting the rights of women (such as that of the Commission on the Status of Women, adopted earlier this year).
Critically, a UNGA ban would contribute significantly to a global recognition that FGM is a human rights violation against millions of women around the world, and help to shift the discourse, and the required response, accordingly. This is a shift that women’s rights advocates have tenaciously pushed for over the past two decades.
It would help strengthen the development of a political and social environment that challenges attitudes and behaviours on FGM and facilitates its elimination and would celebrate those who were brave enough to speak out against FGM when it was a taboo to do so and hearten those who still work in such environments, often at great personal risk.
This, in the end, is the crux of the matter: the impact of a UNGA Resolution lies not in the halls of buildings in New York or Geneva, but in the lives of ordinary people, many of whom will never visit those buildings but who look to the UN, its member States and agencies to help make their world a better place. The urgent need to help to raise awareness, to support victims and to protect women and girls who are at risk, by involving all sectors and levels of the society, is given a boost when the international community speaks as a whole and takes an unequivocal and joint stance.
The time has now come for us to join all the brave activists who have dedicated their lives to this issue and demand, by signing the appeal on www.banfgm.org, that the United Nations takes responsibility and finally take the steps to put an end to this human rights violation.

*Ms Lamizana is the president of the Inter-African Committee Against Harmful Traditional Practices. Ms Emma Bonino, the vice president of the Italian Senate and founder of No Peace Without Justice, contributed to this article.





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