Pandemic increases risk of female genital mutilation for millions – UN

According to a UN report, released on Tuesday, the coronavirus pandemic is reversing progress on ending child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), putting millions of more girls at risk.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said in the report that an additional 13 million girls could be forced into marriage and two million more girls could undergo FGM in the next decade if services and programmes designed to stop the practices remain shuttered for months.

Already this year, some 4.1 million girls will be subjected to FGM, the UN said.

Around 33,000 girls under age18 are forced into marriage every day to usually much older men.

More than 140 million females are missing in the world today because of an extreme preference for sons over daughters in some countries, fuelling prenatal sex selection or extreme neglect that leads to baby girls’ deaths, UNFPA said.

The UN sexual and reproductive health agency’s report identifies harmful practices inflicted on girls and women, ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing and accusations of witchcraft.

“Harmful practices against girls cause profound and lasting trauma, robbing them of their right to reach their full potential,’’ UNFPA Director, Natalia Kanem, said in a press release.

“We must tackle the problem by tackling the root causes, especially gender-based norms.’’

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