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Human Rights Female Genital Mutilation is child abuse - UN

The head of the United Nations Population Fund has called the practice of female genital mutilation "child abuse".

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play Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) (UN)

The head of the United Nations Population Fund has called the practice of female genital mutilation "child abuse".

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, also  the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, and previously Nigeria’s Minister of Health, told the BBC stakeholders needed to work together to put an end to the abusive custom.

"There is absolutely no reason to cut anybody, and it seemed to us that it is part of the gender imbalance that has always existed in these communities which are based on patriarchy. I think it's child abuse. It's gender-based violence, it's a human rights violation, and I think it's something all of us must collaborate, and work together to stop,” he said.

While he said there was government legislation to ban the practice, there needed to be more done on the ground with sustainable campaigns.

The United Nations say more than 200 million women and girls around the world have undergone the procedure, where parts of the female genitals are removed, and estimate a further three million are at risk of being mutilated.

This is the first time the UN has called it child abuse, previously it has called it a human rights violation.

It is practiced in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The UN has previously said in Ghana 1.5 percent of girls aged 15-19, and 6.5 percent of women aged 45-49 have been subjected to female genital mutilation between 2002 and 2013. 

A report in Ghana in 2001, by the US Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues said the extent of the practice in Ghana as a whole is limited, generally practiced among a few groups in northern Ghana. There are also some migrants from neighbouring countries who now practice it in southern Ghana.

It said it was most prevalent in the Upper East Region, and practiced regularly in remote parts of the Northern Region, Upper West Region and northern Volta Region.

In the southern part of Ghana it is practiced among migrants from the northeastern and northwestern parts of Ghana, from Mali, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso and other neighboring countries. It crosses religious boundaries.

It is performed due to traditional tribal beliefs, the report found, as some believe it leads to cleanliness and fidelity of the woman. Others believe it will increase fertility and prevent the death of first-born babies. It is also seen as a way to suppress a woman’s sexual desires and make her less promiscuous.

The 1998 Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Center’s study reported that 51 percent of all women who have been subjected to this practice had it performed before the age of one.

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