(February 2010) An estimated 100 million to 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and more than 3 million girls are at risk for cutting each year on the African continent alone. FGM/C is generally performed on girls between ages 4 and 12, although it is practiced in some cultures as early as a few days after birth or as late as just prior to marriage. FGM/C poses serious physical and mental health risks for women and young girls. According to a 2006 WHO study, FGM/C can be linked to increased complications in childbirth and even maternal deaths. Other side effects include severe pain, hemorrhage, tetanus, infection, infertility, cysts and abscesses, urinary incontinence, and psychological and sexual problems. Since the early 1990s, FGM/C has gained recognition as a health and human rights issue.

On Feb. 6, 2003, the first lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, made the official declaration on "Zero Tolerance to FGM" in Africa during a conference organized by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC), a nongovernmental network headquartered in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia. The 6th of February was subesquently adopted by the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights as the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, and ceremonies marking this day have taken place around the world.

PRB marks International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM by highlighting our work to bring attention to and present accurate data on this practice that affects millions of women and young girls worldwide:

  • The Role of Policymakers in Ending Female Genital Mutilation: An African Perspective, by African Union Ambassador to the United States Amina Salum Ali. This article is based on an upcoming Occasional Paper by Ambassador Ali. Born and raised on the island of Zanzibar and educated in India, Ambassador Ali has held various ministerial positions in the Tanzanian government, including Minister of Finance and Minister of the Treasury, as well as Member of Parliament.
  • Webcast Interview With Ambassador Amina Salum Ali. In this audio interview, Ambassador Ali describes what the African Union has done to combat FGM, what is needed to eliminate the practice beyond legal instruments, the social context of the practice, and how she feels about the future for Africa's women.
  • Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Data and Trends, 2010 Update. An update of PRB's 2008 wallchart on data and trends in female genital mutilation/cutting shows the practice is widespread in at least 27 developing countries, although there is some evidence that younger generations in some countries may face a slightly smaller risk.
  • Postponed: PRB Discuss Online, Feb. 11: "Ending FGM/C: A Successful Model in Ethiopia," with Bogaletch Gebre, executive director, KMG, Ethiopia.

Other Useful Resources on FGM:

Center for Reproductive Rights
Child Info
No Peace Without Justice
Pambazuka News
UNICEF
USAID