Statement in context of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

Geneva, 6 February 2014

- The International Day on Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a strong reminder of the work that still lays ahead in our endeavors to eliminate this practice, said ambassador Steffen Kongstad in his statement.

The International Day on Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a strong reminder of the work that still lays ahead in our endeavors to eliminate this practice.

I also think that this annual event serves an important purpose in mobilising attention and understanding as I have noticed that the extent and magnitude of this problem is still not sufficiently recognised by many despite the extensive documentation produced and the advocacy work undertaken over many years. Over the last years much progress has been made in addressing FGM. But there is still a strong need to intensify our efforts.

When the UN General Assembly in December 2012 unanimously adopted the resolution “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations” it marked a milestone in our efforts to end this practice. The resolution has given us a clear and comprehensive framework, and it commits all states to promote, protect and fulfill the rights of girls and women by ending this practice.

We are here today to mobilize action by all stakeholders to accelerate the elimination of FGM. And I have been asked to speak about international and national commitments to eliminating FGM. There are numerous international instruments that clearly commit and obligate states to end harmful practices like FGM. The question is not whether there are such commitments, -and clear obligations. They certainly do exist.

FGM is a clear violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted gender inequality, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is normally carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, including sexual and reproductive health and rights; it violates the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and it violates the right to life when the practice results in death.

The question and the challenge is rather how we meet and implement our commitments and obligations.

To Norway the elimination of FGM has for several years been a political priority. Nationally, several legal, administrative, health & medical measures have been introduced to address the problem.

In our international efforts we do recognise that on an issue of this nature, with all its cultural and social complexities and sensitivities, one has to work in ways taking these factors into consideration. We therefore support the work of organisations like UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO and the Inter-African Committee, as well as the political and practical efforts of the countries most affected by the practice of FGM.

Change and results are now emerging on the ground. The number of girls subjected to this practice is decreasing. Momentum has been created. Impressive partnerships have been established. Government institutions, civil society organisations, UN agencies, women’s groups, religious and local leaders, health workers, journalists, mothers and fathers now work together to end FGM. Even public pressure, which for centuries weighed in favour of these practices, is seen to move against the practice.

The new Norwegian government has confirmed that we will intensify and accelerate our efforts on FGM/C and we are now evaluating ways to improve our work through a more holistic approach. This entails using the knowledge we have gained so far to better integrate our efforts on FGM to other relevant development priorities – such as gender equality, maternal – and child health, primary education and human rights. To take just one example: In WHO, we are part of the core group developing a resolution on violence, particularly against women and girls, which also addresses FGM. We believe this represents one important way to address the issue: Mainstreaming it into broader subjects where appropriate. FGM is not an isolated issue; it needs to be addressed within many broader contexts, such as violence, health impact and human rights.

In conclusion; we will continue and strengthen our partnerships with other countries and relevant organisations to eliminate the horrible and unacceptable harm done to girls and women by FGM. We all share that responsibility.