FGM and Human Rights
by Emily Snyder
My biggest fear as a child was that the rain gutter on my house would come to life during a thunder storm and chase me around. For this, I am an astronomically fortunate person. What a wonderful childhood I had that I was actually afraid of something as silly as anthropomorphic rain gutters! I grew up without fearing for my life, health, or safety- a privilege far too many girls cannot enjoy.
For those privileged enough to enjoy basic human rights, like the rights to health, physical integrity and freedom from fear, confronting the reality that so many people in the world do not is painful. Even more painful is the knowledge that so many of those living in fear are young girls facing FGM. As an American student studying and interning in London this term, I was stunned to discover the magnitude of the FGM problem here in the UK- as well as in the US and around the world for that matter.
The World Health Organization recognizes FGM internationally as a harmful and discriminatory human rights violation. This means that no girl or woman, anywhere in the world, should have to live in fear of FGM or live with the consequences. But it’s hard to talk about. Due to its sensitive nature, FGM is often kept out of the media spotlight, when that’s exactly where it should be!
In the US, although outlawed by federal law, FGM is still not a crime in 26 states. There have been only a handful of prosecutions since the 1985 act banning FGM in the UK, and no successful convictions. FGM is also illegal in Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Togo, yet the practice continues in these and other countries. An estimated 3 million women and girls survive FGM every year. That’s 3 million girls and women being stripped of their human rights
Although FGM is a vast, deeply-rooted, and far-reaching problem, it must not be shrugged off as an unchangeable tradition. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.
Promoting groups that bring FGM into the spotlight- via donation, engagement, supporting survivors or raising awareness- is a crucial step in the fight to end the practice for good. We have to talk about it. I’m proud to support Rosa, who offer grants to groups fighting to end FGM in the UK, and I hope to keep supporting the cause in the US as well.
I hope for a world in which women and girls never again have to fear FGM.
I hope for a world in which all little girls can be afraid of rain gutters.
Emily Snyder is a 21 year old student in her final year at the University of Texas. She is thrilled to be studying in London! She is passionate about social justice, specifically women’s reproductive justice and bodily integrity, and hopes to find work in the non-profit sector. Her concentrations are Spanish and Geography, so wish her luck.
Sing. Shout. Smile. Laugh. Live. #EndFGM
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