UNICEF ??warns of an increase in female genital mutilation due to COVID-19

New York, Feb 5 (efe-epa).- The closure of schools as a result of COVID-19 and the interruption of aid programs for girls in countries where the practice of female genital mutilation is common could cause an increase in this practice in the next decade, the United Nations said Friday.

“It is possible that there will be 2 million additional cases of female genital mutilation during the next decade, as COVID-19 causes the closure of schools and interrupts programs that help protect girls from this harmful practice,” Henrietta Fore, director of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Natalia Kanem, director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said in a statement.

On the occasion of genital mutilation Zero Tolerance Day, both directors spoke of the need to act immediately to prevent this expected increase in cases from occurring.

Every year, about 4 million girls worldwide are at risk of being victims of female genital mutilation, and most are subjected to this practice before their 15th birthday, according to UNICEF.

The funds, which say the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 contemplate the “ambitious” goal of ending this deep-rooted tradition in various communities and countries in different regions of the world, call for unity, financing and action to eradicate it.

“Far from stopping our ambition, the pandemic has sharpened our resolve to protect the 4 million girls and women who are at risk of female genital mutilation each year,” Fore and Kanem say.

To achieve this goal, they urge collaboration between policymakers at all levels, civil society, organizations for the defense of women’s rights, international organizations and “agents of change, from teachers to health workers through locally respected religious leaders and elders, as well as the security forces and the judicial system.”

In addition, they consider funding critical, even in countries where female genital mutilation is on the decline, in order to end it by 2030. They said $ 2.4 billion will be needed over the next decade, of which “the majority is yet to be raised.”

“Less than a hundred dollars per girl is a very low price for preserving the integrity of girls’ bodies, their health and their right to say ‘no’ to rape,” they said.

“We need to ensure that girls have access to education, health care, including sexual and reproductive health services, and livelihoods, and that they are protected by laws, policies and new social norms,” they added.

To achieve this goal, they said it is also critical that “leadership skills of adolescent girls and their male peers” and “their power to speak up and say ‘enough’ to all forms of violence, including violent attacks, are promoted against their bodies.” EFE-EPA


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