CAIRO – The head of the world’s largest Muslim group has called for abolishing female genital mutilation, saying the practice runs counter against Islamic teachings and human rights.
“Female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights of girls and women,” Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), said Tuesday, December 4, TrustLawreported.
Speaking at the opening of a conference on the role of women in development in Indonesia, Ihsanoglu highlighted that the practice violates Islamic teachings.
“This practice is a ritual that has survived over centuries and must be stopped as Islam does not support it.”
The OIC chief said female genital mutilation is “a hazardous practice that endangers the physical and psychological health of girls and women”.
FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for traditional socio-religious and other non-medical reasons.
The practice involves using blades — often unsterilized and without anaesthesia — to slice off the clitoris and sometimes other parts of the external genitalia.
The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women, but instead causes severe bleeding, urinating problems, and later, childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending child births.
FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the basic human rights of girls and women and is mainly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and the age of 15.
Many countries have put in place policies and legislations to ban the practice.
UN Women’s Executive Director Michelle Bachelet said no religion condones the female genital mutilation.
“There’s no base on any religion (and) no religious text supports something like that,” Bachelet told a press conference on Tuesday.
She stressed that there is an international consensus on the need to ban the harmful practice.
“Having said that, in many places FGM is a social norm, so it’s important not only to have laws, but it’s also important to work with community leaders, with religious leaders and the mothers of the children… to try to change a social norm that is harming girls.”
Though illegal, FGM is still practiced throughout the world.
In Africa, it is common in a geographical area that stretches from Senegal in West Africa to Ethiopia on the East Coast, as well as from Egypt in the North to Tanzania in the south.
It is also practiced by some groups on the Arabian Peninsula.
The country where FGM is most prevalent is Egypt, followed by Sudan, Ethiopia and Mali.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
In Africa, the WHO estimates that three million girls are at risk for the practice annually.