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  1. 1

    Guidelines for UNICEF action on eliminating female genital mutilation [memorandum]


    [Unpublished] 1994 Oct 31. 11, 10 p. (CF/EXD/1994-009)

    This paper presents an Executive Directive, which provides a background and a description of the strategy of the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on eliminating female genital mutilation (FGM). It also provides guidance on efforts to end the harmful practice of FGM. The Executive Board in 1990 endorsed that UNICEF address the status of girls and their health, nutritional, and educational needs with a view to eliminating gender disparities. Since FGM is a form of discrimination against women, and UNICEF is firmly committed to respecting cultural differences, they should take a clear position against the practice. The Board proposed directives to develop culturally sensitive strategies and support programs for UNICEF. These include collaborations with regional, national and local non-governmental organizations, professional associations, religious institutions, and governments. In addition, it is recommended that UNICEF Regional Offices should take a lead role in initiating and coordinating programs to end FGM practice. A joint statement from the WHO, UNICEF, and the UN Population Fund on the issue of female genital mutilation is also presented in this paper.
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  2. 2

    Female genital mutilation. Report of a WHO Technical Working Group, Geneva, 17-19 July 1995.

    World Health Organization [WHO]

    Geneva, Switzerland, WHO, 1996. [3], 28 p.

    This document constitutes a WHO Technical Working Group report on female genital mutilation (FGM). The first section offers an overview of the objectives of the Technical Working Group, the FGM process and geographical distribution of cases. Section 2 presents a background information on FGM and the proposed definition and classification of the Group. Section 3 discusses the physical and health consequences of the practice, both the short-term and the long-term complications. Section 4 examines the sexual, mental, and social consequences of FGM, while section 5 explores on suggested research framework for effective interventions. Section 6 outlines a framework for activities geared towards addressing this concern including breaking the silence, raising awareness, providing information, advocacy, enhancing personal views of women, involving policy-makers, nongovernmental organizations, and the community. It also discusses FGM in immigrant communities in western countries. The last section presents several recommendations for research, national policies and legislation, and training.
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  3. 3

    Traditional or customary practices affecting the health of women and girls. General Assembly resolution 52/99 of 12 December 1997.

    United Nations. General Assembly

    [Unpublished] 1997 Dec 12 4 p.

    This report presents the resolution 52/99 of the UN General Assembly concerning the traditional or customary practices affecting the health of women and girls. The General Assembly re-affirms that traditional and customary practices affecting the health of women and girls, female genital mutilation (FGM) in particular, constitute a definite form of violence against women and girls and a serious form of violation of their human rights. Expressing concerns about the continuing large-scale existence of such practices, the body welcomes all efforts undertaken by the UN, as well as by the government and nongovernmental organizations, geared to eradicate these harmful practices. Emphasis is placed on the need for governments to analyze policies and programs relating to poverty, as well as health and violence against women; national legislation and measures prohibiting these practices, women empowerment; education and information on the dangers of such practices; collaboration with relevant treaty bodies; and providing financial assistance for developing countries. The General Assembly hereby calls upon all States to implement their international commitment in this field, ratify relevant human rights treaties, intensify efforts to increase awareness on the dangers of FGM, support women organizations, and work in collaboration with agencies in protecting the minority groups.
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  4. 4

    WHO fact sheet. Violence against women.

    World Health Organization [WHO]. Press Office

    Geneva, Switzerland, WHO, 1996 Aug. 3 p. (Fact Sheet No. 128)

    The WHO Global Commission on Women's Health, a high level advocacy body which promotes women health issues nationally and internationally, focused on the issue of violence against women at its meeting in 1996. Violence against women has become widely recognized as a major issue of women's human rights; however, there has also been growing awareness of the impact of violence on women's mental and physical health. Studies have shown that the most pervasive form of gender violence is violence against women by their intimate male partners or ex-partners, including the physical, mental and sexual abuse of women and children and adolescents. Approximately 40 population-based quantitative studies conducted in 24 countries revealed a range of 20-50% of women being victims of physical abuse by their partners; 50-60% of them were raped as well. Victims of violence are likely to develop behaviors that are self-injurious, such as substance abuse and smoking.
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  5. 5

    Genitorts in the global context: female genital mutilation as a tort under the Alien Tort Claims Act, the Torture Victim Protection Act, and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

    Karp A

    WOMEN'S RIGHTS LAW REPORTER. 1997 Spring; 18(3):315-27.

    This article analyzes the possibility of civil law suits being brought to court in the US under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) in cases where female genital mutilation (FGM) is the injury for which redress is sought. The article opens by reviewing the practice and prevalence of FGM and shortcomings in national and global (UN) responses. Next, the article reviews possible legal tools against FGM through a discussion of 1) the plausible torts (battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, medical malpractice, wrongful death, loss of consortium, and strict liability); 2) the proper plaintiffs (the victim and/or her relatives); 3) the proper defendants (circumcisers, physicians, parents, hospitals, community and religious leaders, political subdivisions, states and state agents, other influential states, and the UN); and 4) the statutory authority contained in the ATCA, TVPA, and FSIA. The second part of the article discusses the best strategy for using existing tort principles, which is to use torts that fall within the definition of torture and to target defendants visiting or residing in the US. After proposing that a unique argument could be made that FGM is a form of mass-organized extinction of female sexuality and bodily integrity or a crime in the "war of violence against women" or "mass torture," the article concludes that FGM is so shielded by the cloak of respectability and religious requirement that intensive action, including litigation in US courts, may be needed to bring its barbarity in clear view of its practitioners. While lawsuits that offer no hope of satisfying claims will not survive, tort-based actions can be entered against aliens performing FGM.
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  6. 6

    The progress of nations, 1996.


    New York, New York, UNICEF, 1996. [2], 54 p.

    This document contains the UN's 1996 assessment that ranks the nations of the world according to their achievements in specific areas of human well-being. The introductory comments by the Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund notes that the ratios between national wealth and social progress are not static and depend upon such factors as history and culture, political stability, the accountability of governments, and the sense of realism and honesty adopted as a country faces its problems. Past successes teach the importance of avoiding complacency in working toward progress in eliminating avoidable human suffering. The six commentaries then cover the major topics of 1) maternal mortality (female genital mutilation), 2) nutrition, 3) health (progress in immunization), 4) education (with data on the number of girls out of school), 5) the Convention on the Rights of the Child (national performance gaps and action to date), and 6) the industrial world (child poverty in rich nations and levels of youth illiteracy, tobacco use, suicide, pregnancy, and injury deaths). The report also includes statistical tables that illustrate 1) social indicators for less populous countries, 2) progress in meeting 1995 goals, 3) statistical profiles, and 4) information on the age of the data.
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  7. 7

    Female genital mutilation: a joint WHO / UNICEF / UNFPA statement.

    World Health Organization [WHO]; UNICEF; United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA]

    Geneva, Switzerland, WHO, 1997. [3], 20 p.

    This document contains the joint statement of the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on female genital mutilation. The introduction to the statement notes that the purpose of the statement is not to criticize or condemn but to allow people to understand the hazards and indignity of harmful practices and to realize that it is possible to give up harmful practices without giving up meaningful aspects of their culture. The next section defines female genital mutilation, describes its classification into four types, identifies its practitioners, gives ages of its victims and reported reasons for the practice, and covers prevalence and geographic distribution. Section 3 details the immediate, long-term, psychosexual, and psychological health complications associated with the mutilation and contains the strong advice that medical practitioners resist the temptation to medicalize female genital mutilation. Medicalization is seen as inappropriate because it lends the practice a certain legitimacy. Section 4 reprints the text of pertinent international human rights covenants, conventions, and declarations that seek to secure the health of women and girls. The fifth section of the statement reviews the general agreement about overall approaches to the problem, appropriate types of national and community action, and strategic considerations. Section 6 covers international approaches and proposes specified actions for the WHO, UNICEF, and the UNFPA. The statement concludes that the active involvement of many parties will be necessary to promote awareness of all of the health and psychosocial consequences of female genital mutilation among the public, health workers, and those who perform the procedure.
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  8. 8

    The recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development: the possibility of the empowerment of women in Egypt.

    Jewett J


    This paper opens by pointing out that Muslim support of the recommendations contained in the Program of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was gained only because ICPD participants agreed that individual country compliance would be limited by national constitutional statutes and religious doctrine. If Egypt interprets the ICPD's "full respect for ... religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds" to mean "limited by" these factors, Egyptian women will remain unable to control their fertility. After this introduction, the first section of the paper summarizes the ICPD recommendations. Part 2 describes Islamic notions of women's role in society, and the third part shows how these ideas are mirrored in Egyptian society through an analysis of the importance of family and motherhood, Egyptian sexual standards, the veiling of women, and female genital mutilation. Part 4 considers the Islamic influence on Egyptian law, and the fifth part outlines past Egyptian efforts to achieve equality between the sexes. The paper ends by presenting the reforms that Egypt will have to institute to implement the ICPD recommendations. These include eliminating laws that perpetuate traditional gender roles and sexual standards. Egypt will also have to promote education as a key to empowering women and implementing the ICPD recommendations. It is also noted that women's organizations must play a key role in the reform process and that the process must take Islamic law into account.
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  9. 9

    Annual report 1996.

    United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA]

    New York, New York, UNFPA, [1997]. 74 p.

    United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) program activities during 1996 were strengthened by the implementation of a new resource allocation approach based on progress in achieving the goals established at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). In 1996, the 27 Group A countries (those most in need of assistance to reach ICPD goals) received 73.7% of total allocations. In terms of program areas, reproductive health activities received 71% of total allocations, population and development strategies accounted for another 18%, and advocacy was allotted 11%. The country programming process was accompanied by management reviews to streamline operations and strengthen program delivery, to improve the coordination of activities under the Fund's decentralized programming approach, and to compile a comprehensive set of guidelines and policies covering areas such as programs, administration, procurement, personnel, staff development, and financial issues. Total contributions in 1996 reached a new high of US $302.5 million, pledged by 95 governments, while total income generated through multi-bilateral arrangements was $18.3 million. Program priorities included reproductive health (including family planning and sexual health), adolescent reproductive health, female genital mutilation, HIV/AIDS, population and development strategies, advocacy, and women's empowerment and gender issues.
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  10. 10

    [Resolution No.] 48/104. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women [20 December 1993].

    United Nations. General Assembly


    On December 20, 1993, the UN General Assembly issued a Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The preamble to the Declaration refers to international human rights treaties and notes that the present resolution will strengthen the implementation process for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Violence against women is denounced as an obstacle to development, a violation of rights and fundamental freedoms, and a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between the sexes. Concern is also expressed for women in particularly vulnerable groups. The Declaration opens with a definition of "violence against women" as "any act of gender-based violence that results in . . . physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women. . .." Article 2 notes that these acts include domestic violence, sexual abuse, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation, rape, sexual harassment, forced prostitution, and violence perpetrated or condoned by any State. The third article states that women's rights are to include the right to life, to equality, to liberty and security of person, to equal protection under the law, to freedom from discrimination, to the highest attainable physical and mental health, to just and favorable employment conditions, and to protection from torture or inhuman punishment. Article 4 notes that States should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition, or religion to avoid their obligations to elimination such violence. This article also contains additional specific measures which States should follow. The fifth article covers ways in which the UN can contribute to this goal by taking such actions as fostering international and regional cooperation, promoting meetings and seminars, fostering coordination within the UN system, and cooperating with nongovernmental organizations.
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  11. 11

    The United Nations, human rights and traditional practices affecting the health of women and children.

    Gallagher A

    Development. 1993; (4):44-8.

    In 1991, the UN Commission of Human Rights presented a detailed report on 3 of the traditional practices which are harmful to the health of women and children: female genital mutilation, traditional delivery practices, and son preference. Female genital mutilation has received the most attention, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has supported a number of initiatives to eradicate it. In addition, the WHO Safe Motherhood Initiative was launched in the late 1980s to reduce the number of maternal deaths. WHO has resolved to gear its programs toward the elimination of harmful traditional practices. In 1984, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) held a seminar in Senegal and established the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children which serves as a focal point of government and NGO activities. Meanwhile, a UN Working Group on genital mutilation, maternal practices, and son preference presented a report in 1986. Its tasks were then assumed by a Special Rapporteur who recommended that relevant UN agencies coordinate their work in this field more closely as they organize regional seminars, monitor the progress of work, and routinely include information on these practices in programs to improve the status of women. To date the UN's work has had few tangible results in preventing these practices and has failed to acknowledge the link between them and the more generalized problem of sexual discrimination. At one level, the problem is exacerbated by the difficulty of reconciling the competing concepts of universal human rights and cultural relativism. Also, human rights entitlements are sought from states and not in families. Despite these problems, the UN has given these matters international attention. The international community must affirm the universality of human rights norms and recognize the desirability of a culturally sensitive approach to the implementation of these norms. NGOs have also played a crucial role in bringing these issues to the consideration of the human rights community.
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  12. 12

    Cooperation by UNICEF in the elimination of traditional practices affecting the health of women and children in Africa (Extract).

    Ngom MT

    In: Report on a Seminar on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children in Africa, organized by the Senegal Ministry of Public Health and the NGO Working Group on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children. Dakar, Senegal, Ministry of Public Health and NGO Working Group on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women adn Children, 1984. 182-4.

    This contribution begins with a statement of praise for the efforts of the Senegal conference, complimenting the conference's recognition of positive and negative influencing practices. Positive practices should be encouraged with arguments and striking examples. Attention is drawn to UNICEF document PRO-71, the product of the 1980 Inter-Organization Consultation Meeting on Combating the Practice of Female Circumcision (FC), through the improvement of women's status, and the elimination of false ideologies such as those related to the necessity of FC for the preservation of female modesty, virginity, and chastity. Further attention is drawn to the efforts of a multi-disciplinary study group on FC set up in Ivory coast. Finally, the readiness of UNICEF to further female and child health development, and growth chart, oral rehydration, breastfeeding immunization, food supplementation, family spacing, and female education developments, are discussed.
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  13. 13

    Female circumcision.

    Taba AH

    World Health. 1979 May; 8-13.

    Female circumcision is still performed in African countries, and to a lesser extent in southern parts of the Arabian Peninsula, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The origins of the practice are unknown, but the custom is routinely performed as an integral part of social conformity and community identity. It is conceived as an essential element of the code of modesty. The age of the girl who is circumcised can be anywhere from 1 week to 10 years. The operation (clitoridectomy, mutilation of the labia minora and majora of the female genitalia) is often performed by nonskilled practitioners under adverse hygenic conditions. Serious complications, e.g., surgical shock, bleeding, infection, tetanus, and retention of urine, are common. In 1976 the World Health Organization's Director General issued a statement on the need to combat superstitions and practices such as female circumcision. In 1979 all the participants from countries of WHO's African and Eastern Mediterranean Regions unanimously resolved that the practice should be abolished. The public will need an intensified education program, including health education, and traditional healers will need demonstrations of the harmful effects of female circumcision, to overcome a deeply entrenched cultural practice.
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  14. 14

    The Hosken Report: genital and sexual mutilation of females. 3rd rev. ed.

    Hosken FP

    Lexington, Massachusetts, Women's International Network News, 1982 Nov. 338 p.

    This report documents the existence and prevalence in Africa and in other regions of the world of the cultural practice of female circumcision and genital mutilation (FC/GM). This serious problem is examined so that it can be abolished. Until recently the problem was hidden from the public, and most health, government and international agency officials denied that the practices were widespread. In 1979 at a World Health Organization (WHO) seminar on traditional health practices, the problem received international attention. Recommendations made by the seminar participants urged nations to adopt policies to abolish FC/GM, to establish commissions to coordinate activities aimed at abolishing the practices, and to intensify efforts to educate the public and health professionals about the problem. In 1984 it was estimated that 79.97 million women in Africa had FC/GM operations performed at some time during their life. The proportion of women who have had FC/GM operations was almost 100% in Somalia, 90% in Ethiopia, 80% in Sudan, Mali, and Sierra Leone, and 60% in Kenya, Ivory Coast, and Gambia. Information is provided on 1) the extent of the practices, 2) the health problems associated with FC/GM, 3) the 1979 WHO seminar, 4) the history of FC/GM, and 5) the cultural beliefs supporting the practices. Case histories provide detailed information on the practices in 11 African countries, 4 countries on the Arab Pennisula, and 2 Asian countries, including Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Upper Volta, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The existence of FC/GM practices in many other countries, including Western nations, is also documented. These practices are also discussed in reference to the depressed status of women in many African countries, and the role of women in these countries is examined in regard to legal matters, education, employment, agriculture, family planning, development, and urbanization. Political factors hindering the abolition of the practices and the hesitancy of international agencies such as WHO, US Agency for International Development, and the UN Children's Fund, to deal with the problem are discussed. There is some evidence that FC/GM operations are being conducted in hospitals in a number of African countries, and efforts must be made to prohibit the introduction of these practices into the modern health care system. Suggestions are provided for action and education programs aimed at abolishing FC/GM practices. An annotated bibliograpy, containing 78 references, is also provided.
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