International Day of Zero Tolerance


FGM. Sometimes acronyms are hard to remember, but I truly believe everyone should engrave this on their mind: FGM, which stands for Female Genital Mutilation.

Yes, it’s 2015 and we still have to talk about this barbarian and unacceptable practice. And as the United Nations have chosen this Friday, February the 6th, as the International Day of Zero Tolerance, we have felt the need to choose this sensitive topic as our IATE Term of the Week.

Over 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM, and if current trends continue, about 86 million additional girls worldwide will be subjected to the practice by 2030. Yes, I wrote girls. I could have written children, though. Because FGM is mostly carried out on young girls, quite often between infancy and age 15, and most of the times before age 5[1].

When I was that age my only concern was finding those Barbie’s shoes I used to lose all the time. Or, at worst, having to take care of some bruises on my knees, because I used to be a mess at skating. But I was born lucky. Those 140 million girls didn’t get to be so. They got to be cut.

Female genital mutilation, also known as ‘female genital cutting’ or ‘female circumcision’, refers to “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”[2] The terminology used to describe the practice has potentially offensive connotations and has thus been a subject of ongoing debate. Many commentators initially used the term ‘female circumcision’, since in some societies genital cutting is incorporated into both male and female initiation rites. Several languages, in fact, use the same term for cutting performed on both women and men. Starting in the 1970s, some activists objected to the use of this term; one reason is that it erroneously suggests that female circumcision is analogous to male circumcision. To emphasize the different nature of female genital cutting and to create a linguistic distinction, many favour the term ‘female genital mutilation’ and its acronym.

But objections have been raised also for the use of FGM, because, according to some, the term confers judgement and condemnation of what is an age-old practice in many communities[3].

Although FGM cannot be justified by medical reasons, it has become common practice and socially accepted in more than twenty-nine countries all over the world. This led to an even scarier usage: more and more often FGM is performed by medical professionals. A recent analysis of existing data shows that more than 18% of all girls and women who have been subjected to FGM have had the procedure performed by a health-care provider. In some countries this rate is as high as 74%[4].

Do you know what this means? This represents ones of the greatest threats to the abandonment of the practice. So this is why we should all participate in spreading awareness throughout. Engaging, training and sensitizing health workers to the issue of FGM is crucial. Let’s raise our voice and do our part.


By Sabina Grixoni

Editor and Social Media Strategist

Communication Trainee at TermCoord

iate fgm



[1][2] WHO, Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An interagency statement, p. 4.[3] Eliah, E., ‘REACHing for a healthier future’, Populi, United Nations Population Fund, New York, 1996, pp. 12-16.[4]

February 6, 2015 6:45 pm

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