International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, 2013

The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - held each 6 February - encourages global awareness of FGM (also called ‘cutting’) and to promote its eradication.

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) views FGM of any type as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, and works actively with other global organisations to help to eliminate it.

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections and infertility, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths
  • About 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM
  • FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15
  • In Africa an estimated 92 million girls 10 years old and above have undergone FGM
  • FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women (Source: WHO)

The FIGO President, Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, said:

‘FGM is often presented as part of a girl’s initiation into womanhood within her own particular community, and also as a way in which to control women’s sexuality. Therefore, in addition to the physical risks and consequences, it has devastating repercussions on a woman’s psychological and sexual health.’

He continued: ‘It is important to mention that, while the practice is often linked to religious doctrine, no major religion, in fact, actively encourages it. For example, within Islam, the subject has often been shrouded in misconception and based on outdated medical opinion. In fact, Islamic religious scholars have concluded that the practice is not an obligation to Islam.’

The world has long united in its response to FGM. The United Nations released a 2008 statement - ‘Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation’ - and called for its eradication within a generation. OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM and WHO supported this announcement, as did numerous NGOs and professional health and rights associations.

During the 61st World Health Assembly (2008) FGM was denounced as a violation of human rights and a barrier in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and called on member states to accelerate actions towards its elimination.

Professor Arulkumaran added:

‘FIGO’s work on condemning FGM continues to be robust. Building on our 1994 Montreal General Assembly Resolution on FGM, we continue to encourage FIGO societies to urge their national governments to sign up to international human rights agreements condemning the practice and to support the work of national authorities, NGOs and intergovernmental organisations.

‘The FIGO Committee for the Ethical Aspects of Human Reproduction and Women’s Health has two guidelines opposing FGM, the most recent concerning medicalisation [London, 2006] - unfortunately, there is a growing tendency for FGM to be carried out by health professionals, which seems to have resulted from a misplaced need to reduce the risks, or even for financial gain.’

In 2010, FIGO joined UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WHO, ICN, MWIA, WCPA and WMA in launching a ‘Global strategy to stop healthcare providers from performing female genital mutilation’.

FIGO’s film on the issue, ‘The Cutting Tradition: insights into female genital mutilation’, in collaboration with filmmaker Nancy Durrell McKenna of SafeHands for Mothers, and award-winning actress Meryl Streep as narrator, aims to educate health providers worldwide on the issues surrounding this highly controversial subject.

FIGO is committed to the eradication of this abuse of women’s human rights, and continues to work alongside other global bodies to help eliminate it once and for all.


World Health Organization (WHO) 

Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation - An Interagency Statement, 2008  

61st World Health Assembly Resolution on Female Genital Mutilation - May 2008 

Global Strategy To Stop Health-Care Providers From Performing Female Genital Mutilation, 2010 

Female Genital Mutilation (FIGO, Montreal, 1994) 

The Cutting Tradition