Urgent action needed to end the crisis of harmful practices against women and girls worldwide

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Irish launch of UNFPA Report

Millions of women and girls affected, according to flagship United Nations report

An estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation by the end of 2020, that’s according to a report from UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.

Entitled Against My Will: Defying the Practices that Harm Women and Girls and Undermine Equality, UNFPA’s State of World Population 2020 report reveals that millions of girls are subjected to practices that harm them physically and emotionally each year. These practices are often carried out with the full knowledge and consent of their families, friends and communities.

The report focuses on three harmful practices - female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and son preference. These practices are widespread and can be found in every region of the world, in both developing and developed countries.

Commenting on the report, Mr Colm Brophy TD, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora said, “The report affirms that child and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and son preference are violations of human rights and, as such, issues of universal relevance and concern. Getting to zero harmful practices by 2030, as set out in Sustainable Development Goal 5, requires much faster progress. Ireland will not be found wanting in our support for these efforts”.

The State of World Population Report 2020 was developed during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is causing serious delays in the implementation of programmes designed to end child marriage and FGM. Furthermore, pandemic-related economic disruptions are increasing the vulnerability of girls to these harmful practices.

The report will be presented by Jacqueline Mahon, UNFPA Country Representative for Tanzania and Acting Director of the Policy and Strategy Division. Speaking in advance of the launch she said “While progress has been made towards ending harmful practices worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic could have far-reaching impacts on the effort to end female genital mutilation. The pandemic may directly result in 2 million FGM cases over the next decade that would otherwise have been averted.

“Similarly, if the pandemic causes a one-year average delay in a package of interventions to end child marriage, considered a conservative estimate, some 7.4 million more child marriages, that otherwise could have been averted, are projected to occur over the next decade. In addition, the pandemic-caused economic downturn, for example, a reduction in Gross Domestic Product per capita by 10 per cent would be projected to result in an estimated 5.6 million additional child marriages taking place between 2020 and 2030. The total effect of the COVID-19 pandemic could therefore result in 13 million additional child marriages.

“Our efforts in this space are becoming more urgent, and we will need firm commitments to the elimination of FGM and other harmful practices if we are to reach our collective goals by 2030”.

Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee, co-Chair of the All Party Oireachtas Interest Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights will chair the launch event. Senator Clifford Lee commented, “This report highlights the profound and lasting trauma that women and girls worldwide are subjected to through practices such as FGM. These practices rob them of their right to reach their full potential. Ireland and other European countries must support the efforts of advocates and service providers to tackle the root causes of FGM, especially the entrenched gender norms that disadvantage women and girls”.

The report details that while a harmful practice such as FGM may start as a one-off event, it can become a cascade of harm, impacting the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls and limiting opportunities to work and thrive in life.

During the event, Rhobi Samwelly, an FGM survivor and activist from Tanzania, will speak about her experiences working with communities affected by FGM “If a mother is not educated, everything in her life is hard. She doesn’t realize the benefits of taking her child to school, she is not aware of the dangers of FGM”.

Ms Samwelly will point out that awareness raising activities are already producing results within communities affected by FGM “Girls are saying no to cutting, and some boys do not want to marry a girl who has been cut—they are aware of its effects on women, including the difficulties women experience during childbirth”.

General Info

Date Entered/Updated
12th Nov, 2020
Expiry Date
26th Nov, 2020