In a video produced by advocacy group Safe Hands for Mothers, young men were asked if they knew what female genital mutilation, or FGM, is, and none of them did. The men then watched clips from a documentary that showed the abusive practice -- which partially or entirely removes the female genitals for non-medical reasons (the clips were recreations and did not show actual victims, according to Safe Hands for Mothers).
Many of the young men cringed, squirmed in their seats and cried as the disturbing footage played.
"This is just barbaric," one of them said.
"I felt powerless," another man noted. "I felt like I couldn't do anything to help."
The video concludes with the men saying, "Now that I know, I say 'no' to FGM."
Although most African countries have banned FGM, the practice is still most prevalent there, as well as in the Middle East, as Reuters reported. FGM -- which has no health benefits and can cause infertility, problems urinating, severe bleeding and infections -- has affected more than 125 million girls and women who are alive today, according to the World Health Organization.
In honor of the United Nations' International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation marked on Friday, the humanitarian organization is reiterating its commitment to "enhance awareness" and encourage advocates and leaders "to take concrete actions" against the abuse.
As the U.N. points out, more and more medical professionals in regions that most frequently practice FGM are executing the procedure, making abandoning FGM considerably more difficult.
According to the U.N., more than 18 percent of all girls and women who have been subjected to the abuse have had the procedure performed by a health care provider. In some countries, that figure climbs to 74 percent.
But the human rights violation is not just an Africa problem -- new data suggests America, too, needs to take action against FGM.
The number of girls and women in America who are at-risk of falling victim to the practice has more than doubled in the last 15 years, a report released today has found. The study, produced by nonprofit Population Reference Bureau (PRB), discovered roughly half a million girls and women are at-risk, and points to a rise in immigration from African nations where the practice is more common as reason for the increase.
"We put out these numbers so decisions can be made by policy makers in this country," PRB's Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs, an author of the report, told Reuters. "In order to know where these girls and women are and how many, this data is critical."
Naana Otoo Oyortey, the executive director of Forward, a leading charity working in the UK to end the practice, which is part of the Men Speak Out project, said: “So far the whole campaign around FGM has predominantly been focused on women. But research from Unicef in 2013 found a fundamental disconnect between the views of men and women on FGM.
“Women think they are doing it for men because men want it. But men do not really understand why women are doing it.
“We felt it was important to focus on men because that is not something that has been done in Europe.”
The project, which was launched to coincide with today’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, will recruit men in the UK, Belgium and Holland who come from communities where FGM is practised, to work as peer educators.
The project is led by Gams Belgium, working with Forward in the UK, Himilo Foundation in The Netherlands and the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp.
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