Back 6 February 2015

Health bodies demand zero tolerance on FGM

Today, as we mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), spearheaded by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (IAC), a coalition of leading health bodies are committing to mobilise their members and use their spheres of influence to accelerate an end this extreme form of violence against women and girls around the world.

FGM is an extreme human rights violation that has no medical benefits, but has dangerous health consequences. Every year, three million girls are at risk and, in some countries, FGM procedures are increasingly carried out by health personnel. This ‘medicalisation’ of FGM is one of the biggest threats to its elimination.

Health personnel are supposed to protect rather than cause harm. They are tasked with providing care and support and are usually the trusted first points of contact for women and girls. Many health personnel are already leading advocates for ending FGM and provide excellent care, but we need a final push to make sure that every single professional comes on board.

Recalling the UN General Assembly Resolution on FGM, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) join the IAC, the Africa Coordination Centre for Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (ACCAF), The Girl Generation, Forma, FORWARD and Equality Now, to urge:

  • All health personnel to fully adhere to the Hippocratic Oath and their obligation to protect the health and well-being of their patients, which includes not performing FGM.
  • Regulatory bodies in all countries to ensure that health professionals do not promote the medicalisation of FGM.
  • Health personnel to not only protect girls at risk of FGM, but also provide physical, psychological and emotional care and support to survivors.
  • All health professional bodies to ensure that FGM care and prevention are part of their training and education programmes.

‘’During the regional workshop for health professionals, organised by the IAC in 2009 in Nairobi, a strong African Health Workers Network was created for accelerating Zero Tolerance to FGM. The commemoration of February 6, 2015 is an opportunity to further engage this important network. Fighting FGM is part of the improvement of the health of women and girls.’’ - Dr Morissanda Kouyaté, Executive Director, IAC

“FIGO has condemned the practice of FGM since 1994, when it issued a General Assembly Resolution on FGM at its triennial World Congress in Montreal. Since then, it has worked with its Member Societies in countries where FGM is prevalent to set policies and sound practice for its elimination in these countries. FIGO is working hard to prevent the medicalisation of FGM through encouraging its Member Societies to work closely with health workers in the field”
- Professor Hamid Rushwan, FIGO Chief Executive

“The ICM recognises FGM as a harmful practice and a violation of the human rights of girls and women.  It condemns FGM and its medicalisation, and believes that FGM and other related practices, harmful to the health of women or infants should be eliminated.” - Frances Day-Stirk, President, International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)

“The RCOG fully supports this initiative. It is imperative that all involved in women’s health protect the women and girls in their care and do what they can to spread awareness amongst their colleagues. As an international medical body, we have members based in countries where FGM is still practiced and I would urge them to uphold the Hippocratic Oath. We are updating our clinical guidelines and applaud the IAC, Equality Now and Girl Generation for making the non-medicalisation agenda a priority for the profession.” - Dr David Richmond, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)

“The Royal College of Midwives has been at the forefront in the fight against FGM and, through the Intercollegiate Recommendations has encouraged the UK government and other agencies to act to end FGM. We wholeheartedly support this call. Stopping this terrible and violent assault on girls and young women is as relevant here in the UK as it is throughout other parts of the world. It is through working together with colleagues in other countries and applying pressure that we will end this practice.” - Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive, The Royal College of Midwives (RCM)

“All governments should urgently put in place legislative and regulatory frameworks against the medicalisation of FGM with punitive measures for those who engage in the practice and institutions in which FGM is performed”.
- Mary Wandia, FGM Programme Manager, Equality Now

“This 6th February, The Girl Generation applauds the many thousands of health workers across the African continent and beyond who have been at the frontline of promoting positive change to end FGM. By standing together with a common voice this Zero Tolerance Day, health workers everywhere can make a real difference to the lives of girls and women. Save a girl, save a generation.” - Nimco Ali, Networking and Social Media Coordinator, The Girl Generation

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