Female genital mutilation/cutting [WHO backgrounder; JURIST news archive] (FGM/C) is on the decline around the world [press release], according to a comprehensive new report [text, PDF] released Monday by UNICEF [official website]. FGM/C refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Most procedures are based in traditional social beliefs that altering the genitalia of females will preserve their honor for marriage, but in fact can cause serious pain and life-threatening infections [WHO research study]. UNICEF cited the decline of this practice as the result of multiple campaigns that contributed to the knowledge base of parents [UN materials], helping them to decide whether it was necessary. For those who do decide to retain tradition, the study noted an increase of the medicalization of the process, as a new trend in data shows that more FMG/C procedures are now being performed by doctors in sterile environments, as opposed to local practitioners lacking sterile facilities.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) [official website] and the UNICEF reported in February that significant progress has been made [JURIST report] in ending the practice of FGM/C but called upon the international community to do more to end the practice. The newest report indicates that as many as 125 million women and girls worldwide have undergone some form of FGM/C. Last November a UN panel urged countries to ban [JURIST reports] FGM/C. In February 2012 the UN reported [JURIST report] similar progress in ending the practice. In 2010 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called on the government of Iraqi Kurdistan [JURIST report] to outlaw female FGM/C. Uganda [JURIST report] joined the movement against FGM/C in 2009 by outlawing it, although it is still practiced there.