Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Violence against Women : Female Genital Mutilation

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Critical Area : Violence against Women
In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture…. Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
--Beijing Platform for Action, paragraph 112
Violence against women is increasingly recognized by the international community as a violation of their rights as human beings. Accordingly, the Beijing Platform for Action urges:
Taking integrated measures to prevent violence against women;
Studying the causes and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of preventive measures;
Eliminating trafficking in women and assisting victims of violence due to prostitution and trafficking.
Violence against women exists in allsocio-economic groups throughout the world.
Wome's lives and potential continue to be endangered by violence that is directed at them simply because they are women. Violence against women exists across all socio-economic groups throughout the world, and includes a wide range of violations of women's human rights, such as trafficking in women and girls, rape, wife abuse, sexual abuse of children, and harmful practices and traditions that irreparably damage girls' and women's reproductive and sexual health.Gender-based violence is a major health and human rights concern. In close partnership with governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and communities, UNFPA therefore supports legal services, shelters and care for women who have been abused. Advocacy for law and policy reform is backed up by information, education and communication on equality issues and on violence against women. Counselling, reproductive health services and life-skills building activities are provided to victims of violence.
Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation
UNFPA addresses the practice of FGM not only because of its harmful impact on the reproductive and sexual health of women, but also because it is a violation of women's fundamental human rights. In countries where the practice is prevalent, activities for the eradication of FGM are integrated into the core areas of UNFPA's mandate.
Information, education and communication on FGM targets parents, teachers and community leaders. Support is equally provided for advocacy, policy and legal reforms and the provision of reproductive and sexual health care.Starting in 1995, members of the Sabiny Elder's Association and clan leaders in Uganda's Kapchorwa district were sensitized on the harmful effects of FGM by the national NGO Reproductive, Educative and Community Health Programme (REACH).
The programme offers information, education and communication activities that address policy makers, health professionals, parents and adolescents. It stresses that practices can change without compromising cultural values. It promotes ceremonies that mark the passage into adulthood with dancing and symbolic gift giving, but without the actual cutting.The Sabiny Elders were the ones who proposed replacing the practice with symbolic gift-giving and other festivities. They were also the ones who told members of their community of the harmful effects of FGM. Between 1994 and 1996, FGM declined by 36 per cent. Currently, this innovative and culturally sensitive approach is being replicated in other countries, such as Mali.

Another initiative, in Sudan, uses groups of volunteers who work within their own communities to raise awareness about FGM. These "Circles of Friends" talk with their community members on various reproductive health issues, especially all forms of harmful traditional practices. The volunteers in the Circles of Friends come from within the community itself. They are therefore well aware of the cultural setting, the existing norms and attitudes, and are thus the most acceptable and credible persons to disseminate reproductive health information, especially when it pertains to sensitive issues such as FGM.
Breaking the Silence
Gender-based violence exists in a culture of silence and denial of the seriousness of the health consequences of abuse at every level of society. Through its programmes UNFPA puts every effort into breaking this silence and ensuring that the voices of women are heard.For instance, UNFPA participated in advocacy campaigns in Latin America and Africa for the eradication of violence against women and girls.
UNFPA joined governments, women's groups, NGOs, universities, medical professionals, students, the media, police and religious groups under the motto: "A life without violence is our right". Specific strategies included: working with the media, mobilizing political commitment, improving awareness of rights and laws, analysing gender violence, passing and enforcing laws, and training defence and security personnel.
In Morocco, a research project with the Ministry of Justice seeks to determine the incidence of domestic violence and to identify underlying trends in order to identify the most vulnerable groups. A pilot system has been set up to process claims of women who are victims of violence and to analyse their conditions. Project results will be used to sensitize decision-makers, magistrates, judges, the police, health professionals, researchers, etc., for the purpose of concerted action to combat violence against women through a community response and referral system.

In Kenya, innovative male sensitization workshops on gender-based violence were held for police officers, chiefs and assistant chiefs. For community-wide awareness, dramas were played in marketplaces. Assistance was given to the "African Court of Women", a mock tribunal where women from several African countries recounted their stories of various forms of physical and mental abuse. With UNFPA support, well-known newspaper cartoonists made a comic book on gender issues, particularly on violence against women.

THE WAY FORWARD:Violence against women remains widespread throughout the world. UNFPA continues to bring gender-based violence to the forefront as a major health and human rights concern. Women’s voices must be heard, and UNFPA puts every effort into enabling women to speak out and get the support they need.

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