ARROW’s Statement at HRC47: High-level panel discussion on FGM

June 25, 2021 Website Cover (3)

This oral statement was broadcasted at the 47th Session of the Human Rights Council’s High-level panel discussion on the multisectoral prevention of and response to female genital mutilation on June 23rd. Watch the video statement here (skip to 01:12:15 for ARROW’s intervention)

Thank you Chair.

I am Keshia Mahmood from the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW). I am making this statement on behalf of Hope for Women Maldives and the Asia Network to End Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C).

Female genital mutilation or cutting is a human rights violation and a form of gender-based violence affecting women and girls across large swathes of the continent of Asia and has been documented in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Thailand, the Philippines, Maldives, India, and Pakistan[1]. The lack of progress across Asia in addressing the issue is disproportionate to the numbers of women and girls affected, and the potential impact on their lives.

It is undeniable that the ‘gendered impact’ of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls has brought pre-existing inequalities, particularly gender inequality and the ‘shadow pandemic’ of gender-based violence into sharp focus. In Asia and the Pacific region and globally, sexual and reproductive health services are being defunded, deprioritised, and even rolled back in favour of directly responding to COVID-19. UNFPA has reported that as a result of COVID-19, an additional two million cases of female genital mutilation or cutting will need to be averted to meet Agenda 2030, though this figure does not take into account potential survivors from most Asian countries. As reports from communities on the ground have evidenced, COVID-19 and subsequent travel restrictions have made it even more difficult for activists and organisations in the region to carry out community engagement. Additionally, organisations with monitoring and reporting mandates have been unable to verify information and collect real-time data, resulting in vital research being put on hold or delayed.

It is imperative for governments to effectively apply intersectional, gender responsive, human rights based and multi-sectoral response and recovery efforts at national, regional and global levels, especially to account for the particular needs and lived experiences of women and girls that are at risk of, or are survivors of, female genital mutilation or cutting.

We call on Member States to take the following actions:

  • Urgently increase funding and support to grassroots and women-led organisations working to end female genital mutilation or cutting. This includes strengthening capacity building and technical assistance to grassroots organisations to support and expand new forms of programmatic activity and innovation during COVID-19.[2]
  • Integrate the prevention of and response to female genital mutilation or cutting in national action plans, with adequate budget allocation.
  • Enact legislation to prohibit female genital mutilation or cutting within domestic legal frameworks.
  • Recognise that women play a critical role in COVID-19 crisis management and mitigation and include them equally and meaningfully in the designing, implementation, financing and monitoring of emergency response for female genital mutilation or cutting at local, national, regional and international levels.
  • Support community-led data collection, monitoring and reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on female genital mutilation or cutting to inform real-time crisis response and recovery efforts. Make it the responsibility of the Government to collect data in order to provide for National Estimates of the prevalence and impact of the practice in their country.
  • Recognise sexual and reproductive health services as ‘essential’, including those accessed by girls at risk or survivors of female genital mutilation or cutting, to allow service providers to continue to operate during emergencies.
  • Harness learnings from previous epidemics by engaging medical practitioners and associations of health professionals to identify opportunities to disrupt the medicalisation of female genital mutilation or cutting.

We call on States to continue and increase their collaboration with women’s and girl’s rights organisations, feminist groups and youth-led organisations working on female genital mutilation or cutting. Global commitments to end this harmful practice by 2030 will not be reached unless resource mobilisation, political will, and partnerships are enabled across the Asia region.

We look forward to supporting Member States and regional actors in accelerating action towards ending all forms of female genital mutilation or cutting in Asia.

Thank You.

This statement is endorsed by:

  1. Hope for Women, Maldives
  2. Kalyanamitra, Indonesia
  3. Equality Now
  4. The Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy
  5. Sahiyo U.S.
  6. Sahiyo India
  7. Professor Angela Dawson, University of Technology Sydney
  8. WeSpeakOut
  9. Musawah
  10. Rural Development Foundation (RDF) Pakistan
  11. Wreetu Foundation
  12. The Zinthiya Trust
  13. Love Matters India



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