FIGO Reaffirms Commitment to end VAW

On 25 November 2010, FIGO reaffirms its commitment to the International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women.

On 17 December 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated this day each year on which to invite governments, international organisations and NGOs to organise activities designed to raise public awareness of gender-based violence.

In 2008, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched UNiTE to End Violence against Women - a multi-year campaign aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls in all parts of the world. Governments, civil society, women’s organisations, young people, the private sector, the media and the entire UN system are encouraged to work together to address the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.

By 2015, UNiTE aims to achieve the following five goals in all countries:

Adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls

Adopt and implement multi-sectoral national action plans

Strengthen data collection on the prevalence of violence against women and girls

Increase public awareness and social mobilisation

Address sexual violence in conflict


FIGO’s stance

As a leading organisation dedicated to promoting the well-being of women and to raise the standards of practice in obstetrics and gynecology, FIGO has a vision that women of the world should achieve the highest possible standards of physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health and well-being throughout their lives.

FIGO believes that women should be valued equally with men, and that both should have their rights respected. All women, everywhere, count.

Violence in context

Annually, over 1.6 million people worldwide lose their lives to violence

Violence is among the leading causes of death for people aged 15-44 years worldwide, accounting for 14% of deaths among males and 7% of deaths among females

For every person who dies as a result of violence, many more are injured and suffer from a range of physical, sexual, reproductive and mental health problems.                           


What is gender-based violence?

This particular type of violence compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of women and girls.

It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including:

• Sex selection and female feticide
• Female infanticide
• Differential education and feeding of girls/women
• Harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation/cutting
• Sexual abuse
• Trafficking of women and girls
• Child marriage
• Honour killings
• Intimate partner violence
• Coerced pregnancy or abortion
• Sexual violence
• ‘Virgin Cleansing’ HIV
• Rape of women with disabilities
• Sexual violence in armed conflict
• Inequitable access to healthcare of girls/women  


These human rights abuses can leave substantial physical and psychological injuries on girls and women,  such as HIV; sexually transmitted diseases; unintended pregnancy; adverse pregnancy outcomes; gynecological problems, including vaginal bleeding and vaginal infections; urinary tract infections; gastrointestinal disorders; irritable bowel syndrome; and various chronic pain syndromes, including chronic pelvic pain. Violence is also a significant and under-reported cause of maternal mortality.  


Gender-based violence is exacerbated by a denial of the serious consequences of abuse - this affects not only individual women, but also the health services supporting them. The outcomes of violence can place an enormous strain on these services, with inevitable repercussions for communities.

A global issue - some recent statistics

  • In India, 22 women were killed each day in dowry-related murders in 2007
  • Women and girls comprise 80% of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority (79%) trafficked for sexual exploitation
  • Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced Female Genital Mutilation/cutting, with more than three million girls in Africa annually at risk from the practice
  • Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in the 1994 Rwandan genocide
  • In the United States, 83% of girls aged 12 to 16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools


What are FIGO’S aims?

• To enable the equal participation of women obstetricians/gynecologists in leadership and political roles at the country level and within FIGO

• To discuss and adapt/adopt the ‘FIGO Professional And Ethical Responsibilities Concerning Sexual And Reproductive Rights’

• To raise awareness that violence is not acceptable

• To integrate services for girls and women who have been sexually assaulted

• To encourage non-participation in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)/cutting and condemn all attempts of its medicalisation

• To encourage non-participation in female sex selection

• To support intervention programs 


FIGO’s specialist work in this area  

Developing robust ‘Guidelines For The Management Of Sexual Violence’
Implementation of the recommendations in these recently finalised guidelines should result in more appropriate management of survivors of sexual violence; reduced risk of contraindicated practices and inadequate documentation; better psychological recovery; and prevention of STI, post-rape pregnancy and HIV.

Raising awareness of FGM
Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM (the ‘partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons’), is a traditional practice with known harmful effects on women’s reproductive and psychological health. It is practised in about 30 countries, including parts of West, East and Central Africa, some parts of the Middle East and South Asia. Around 140 million women and girls worldwide have already undergone this trauma; each year, tragically, a further three million join them. Migration has brought these women into contact with health professionals who often do not understand the cultural significance of the tradition. It is vital that these professionals are made fully aware of the consequences of FGM and how to manage them, treating women with dignity and understanding their life context.

In 1994, FIGO passed a resolution at the Montreal FIGO General Assembly condemning FGM, and the Committee for Ethical Aspects of Human Reproduction and Women's Health has two guidelines opposing it, the most recent concerning medicalisation.

In 2008 the United Nations released a statement - ‘Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation’ - and called for its eradication within a generation.  Ten agencies - OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM and WHO - supported this announcement, and their position echoed by numerous NGOs and professional health and rights associations.

In 2010 11 agencies  -  UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WHO, FIGO, ICN, IOM, MWIA, WCPT and WMA -  released a document on a ‘Global Strategy To Stop Healthcare Providers From Performing Female Genital Mutilation’.