Friday, 14 June 2024 16:38

Global efforts to end female genital mutilation undermined by ‘vacation cutting’

© UNICEF/Mulugeta Ayene
The authorities in Ethiopia stopped the circumcision of a young girl after they were alerted.

The global fight to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) is being undermined by the movement of some girls across national borders and beyond to undergo the procedure, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) warned in a new report published on Friday.

Although many States have intensified their efforts towards eradication, the practice continues across the world in part due to “the clandestine nature of cross-border and transnational FGM,” it said.

“Female genital mutilation is part of a continuum of gender-based violence and has no place in a human rights-respecting universe,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk.


“It must be eliminated in all of its forms, and the gender stereotypes and patriarchal norms that anchor and perpetuate it uprooted.”

Millions at risk

An estimated 4.3 million girls were at risk of being subjected to FGM in 2023, according to the report, which was based on in-depth desk research and submissions from States and civil society organizations around the world.

More than 600,000 women in the European Union are thought to be living with the consequences of FGM, which the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.

It is mainly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.

The practice has no health benefits for girls and women and cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths,” WHO added.

‘Vacation cutting’ during school holidays

The report said so-called “vacation cutting” is when families, particularly in Europe and North America, take their daughters to their countries and communities of origin to undergo FGM during school holidays.

In certain cases, girls are reportedly taken to countries that serve as “transnational FGM hubs”. In some cases, it is the “cutters” who move across borders to carry out the harmful procedure.

The report identified cross-border and transnational movements for the purposes of FGM, around the world. It said that girls and young women living in border communities are particularly vulnerable given border areas often host communities with cultural and ethnic ties that transcend national borders.

Address root causes

“States around the globe have made human rights commitments to eradicate FGM and to advance gender equality,” said Mr. Türk.

“They should ensure a joined-up global approach that addresses the root causes and the consequences of FGM, by among others harmonising their legal and policy frameworks and ensuring their implementation, if they are to truly meet their commitments to end this harmful practice everywhere.”

The report called for greater regional and international cooperation towards eradication.

Measures suggested include allocating adequate resources towards the establishment and implementation of regional policy frameworks and cooperation agreements to address the cross-border scourge, and to support survivors.

States are also urged to ensure that effective prevention measures are in place – designed in consultation with survivors and relevant civil society organisations in partnership with affected communities, religious and traditional leaders.