High-level Panel on the Identification of Good Practices in Combatting Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Ambassador Keith Harper
As Prepared for Delivery
UN Human Rights Council – 26th Session
Geneva, June 16, 2014
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We thank the panelists for their interesting and thoughtful presentations and welcome today’s discussion.
The United States remains committed to the elimination of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM) at home and abroad.
It is unlawful for girls to undergo the procedure in the United States, or for families to take their children abroad to undergo the procedure.
We appreciate the focus today on best practices addressing FGM. In February, the United States issued a review of interventions, evaluations and reports published since 2000 on ending FGM. The objective was to determine the lessons learned, promising approaches and recommendations for the future.
Not every approach will be effective in every place, every village, or every community.
If the approach is too narrow and pursued in isolation, it simply will not work.
Discussions like this Panel are critical to enable policymakers and advocates to share ideas and information.
The United States was also pleased to co-sponsor the UN General Assembly’s landmark resolution on FGM.
That resolution called upon states to develop policies and regulations to ensure the effective implementation of national legislative frameworks on eliminating violence against women and girls, in particular FGM, and to enhance and strengthen advocacy and awareness-raising.
We recognize that to eliminate FGM, deeply rooted social and gender norms must change.
The real driving forces that can ensure that efforts to end FGM or C are sustainable are the people at the community level – men, women, boys and girls.
Education is crucial in raising awareness that FGM threatens women’s and girls’ enjoyment of their human rights and has serious consequences for their health.
Community and religious leaders play a critical role.
So too do women’s groups, men and boys.
There are hundreds of grassroots organizations currently working in communities to end FGM and other harmful practices.
The United States has supported the work of Tostan and its Community Empowerment Program, which empowers communities to change their own lives.
As a result of this approach, thousands of villages in West Africa have committed publicly to abandoning FGM and other harmful practices upon the completion of the program.
UNICEF has evaluated some of these villages years after the completion of the program and found prevalence declined by more than half from original estimates.
We are also supporting the establishment of the Kenya Centre of Excellence at Nairobi University, creating a pan-African center for learning, which will develop innovative research approaches and train leaders and champions working towards stopping FGM.
Ultimately, there should be a focus on holistic, integrated, multisectoral approaches that bring together the advocacy, policy-level work, and community-level efforts needed to transform social norms.
The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting has done an excellent job of using a multisectoral approach.
It has successfully brought together community leaders, NGOs, civil society and governments in many countries.
Of course it is also critical to adequately assist women who have been cut. Health care providers should be educated on health issues related to FGM or C, so they can adequately meet the needs of these patients.
The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme has trained health workers in various countries on how to treat women who have been cut.
There is a need for far more doctors asked to perform reversal surgeries for patients, to assist women with alleviating the negative health consequences of FGM.
Training in these procedures should be made more readily available.
The United States welcomes the Human Rights Council’s attention to this terrible problem.
We look forward to working together with our partners here at the Council and in other multilateral fora, as well as through our bilateral initiatives and the efforts we are pursuing at home to support the elimination of FGM/C worldwide.