International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

February 6, 2018


Today, February 6th, marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female
Genital Mutilation. Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes all procedures whereby the female genitals are modified or injured for non-medical reasons. This traditional practice is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequalities between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls.
According to the United Nations, it 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, in case the procedure results in death. The elimination of FGM, as well as other harmful practices, such as child marriage, early marriage and forced marriage, is mentioned explicitly in one of the Sustainable Development Goals (target 5.3).

Doctors’ complicity

In many countries, performing FGM is a criminal offence. However, few doctors and lay circumcizers have been brought to court. In the United States, the FBI opened a first-ever federal case against two Michigan doctors in April 2017. They are accused of performing the procedure on nearly 100 girls over a period of twelve years.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, a 44-year-old physician in the emergency department, is charged with performing female genital mutilation on at least eight girls in the Burhani Medical Clinic, a facility run by Dr. ir. Fakhruddin Attar in Livonia, Michigan. Dr. Attar’s wife Farida was also arrested and accused of holding at least two patient’s hands during the procedure to “keep them from squirming and calm them,” the Detroit Free Press said.”

In July 2017, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan signed anti-female genital mutilation legislation, making the practice a felony with a prison sentence of up to 15 years. This law applies to both doctors who carry out FGM and parents who allow it to undergo.

Source: First-ever federal charges of female genital mutilation seen as landmark. Alison Thoet, The Nation, 14