Posted with permission from allAfrica.com

The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres has called for global efforts to end the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) wherever the practice is still taking place around the world.

In a Message for the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, marked on February 6 annually, the UN called for speedier efforts to tackle the practice, saying "With the dignity, health and well-being of millions of girls at stake, there is no time to waste. Together, we can and must end this harmful practice."

According to the message, "Female genital mutilation is a gross violation of the human rights of women and girls. Over 200 million women and girls alive today have experienced female genital mutilation in 30 countries across three continents.

"Without concerted, accelerated action, a further 68 million girls could be subjected to this harmful practice by 2030. With strong political engagement, we are seeing success in several countries. But this progress is not enough to keep up with population growth. Unless we act now, the number of cases will continue to rise", he added.

To Guterres, "Sustainable development cannot be achieved without full respect for the human rights of women and girls. Sustainable Development Goal 5, with a focus on gender equality, calls for the elimination of female genital mutilation by 2030.

"Together with the European Union, the United Nations has launched the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year undertaking that aims to create strong partnerships and align efforts to end all forms of violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation", the message added.

In a related development, the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has called for intercontinental partnership to eliminate female genital mutilation where it is still practiced.

Obaseki made the call in Benin City on the occasion of the commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation marked on Tuesday, February 6, each year.

According to him, "the campaign to eliminate the age-old practice should be revitalised with inputs from the traditional and religious institutions, women groups, alternative medicine practitioners, members of the political class, the organised private sector and civil society organisations."

The governor advised that the reinvigoration of the campaign to end FGM should leverage on the power of education and the reach of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in changing mindsets, beliefs and convictions.

The UN explains that female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises "all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women."

The global body further said FGM "reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death."

Obaseki said it was time to end the pains, agonies and the needless deaths that arise from female genital mutilation where the practice is still rife. He tasked the media to put the subject matter on the front burner, as "it is a matter of human right."

"We are hit with front page stories on politics and the economy daily. Female Genital Mutilation deserves similar regular press coverage, to sensitise people about the health risks associated with the practice and emphasise the fact that it is an act of violence against the girl child and women in general," he added.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), jointly with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), leads the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of FGM. The programme currently focuses on 17 African countries and also supports regional and global initiatives.