Ten United Nations agencies pledged Wednesday to support international efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation.
The UN agencies said in a statement that they will support governments, communities, and women and girls to abandon the practice within a generation, with a major reduction in many countries by 2015, the year the Millennium Development Goals are set to be achieved.
"If we can come together for a sustained push, female genital mutilation can vanish within a generation," said UN Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro during the launch. "But this goal demands both increased resources and strengthened coordination and cooperation among all of us."
The consequences of female genital mutilation are unacceptable anywhere, anytime and by any moral and ethical standard, Migiro said.
She said that female genital mutilation is often carried out on minors, violating the rights of a child to free and full consent on matters concerning her body and body functions.
Yet, she added, there are no quick or easy solutions to bringing an end to female genital mutilation.
"I wish to unequivocally underscore that values that underpin female genital mutilation have outlived their purposes. Today, we must stand and firmly oppose the practice because it clashes with our core universal values and constitutes a challenge to human dignity and health," she added.
Female genital mutilation violates the rights of women and girls to health, protection and even life as the procedure sometimes results in death, according to the statement.
The UN agencies said that although decades of work by local communities, government, and national and international organizations have contributed to reducing the prevalence of female genital mutilation in many areas, the practice remains widespread.
Between 100 and 140 million women and girls in the world are estimated to have undergone female genital mutilation and 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedures every year.
The 10 UN agencies are: the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Development Program (UNDP), The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCHR), The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2008)