In a world where power and choice are determined by gender, millions of girls are robbed of their childhoods, education, health and aspirations every day by the harmful practices of child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). In many communities, early marriage and FGM go hand-in-hand because they believe that cutting a girl increases her marriageability.
Over 200 million women and girls alive today in 31 countries have undergone genital mutilation, although small-scale studies, media reports and anecdotal evidence suggest FGM may be present in more than 90 countries.
In 2021, 4.16 million girls and women around the world are at risk of genital mutilation. What’s more, because of COVID-19 disruptions, there could be as many as 2 million additional cases of FGM by 2030 that would otherwise have been averted.
FGM entails the ‘partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons’ and is normally carried out between infancy and age 15. It has no health benefits, but immediate and long-term health consequences are numerous: including infections and abnormal scarring, debilitating pain, or death.
On International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, 6 February, here are just five survivors and activists demanding voice, choice and control for every girl and woman over their own lives and bodies.