Horror! 53-Year-Old Iraqi Woman Explains How She was Genitally Mutilated at 7

At seven, Dania, (not real name) underwent female genital mutilation in her home town, Sulaymaniyah, in northern Iraq. Explaining how it all began, she said, ‘’my mother told me one morning, come with me, we need to go to the bakery. That day, I experienced fear, deception and excruciating pain. I was only seven.’’

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognized internationally as a gross violation of the human rights of girls and women, which reflects deep-rooted inequalities between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls.

The practice comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Current estimations indicate that over 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM, while over 68 million girls aged zero -14 years are at a risk of being subjected to FGM by 2030.

Unlike other years of the Joint Programme implementation, the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic in March 2020 presented unprecedented challenges in the movement for the elimination of FGM.

The social and economic impact of the pandemic has left the world grappling to find a balance between life before COVID-19 and the current state of affairs. Disease outbreaks affect women and men differently, and pandemics make existing inequalities for women and girls worse, and the COVID-19 pandemic has not been an exception.

The pandemic has compounded existing gender inequalities, norms and unequal power relations, leaving girls and women with disproportionate social, economic, and health risks, including FGM. In 2020, the pandemic presented a dual set of challenges: a public health emergency resulting from the direct consequences of the virus, and a socio-economic crisis caused by confinement measures put in place to prevent the spread of the disease.

Most governments prioritised public health response and introduced containment measures that increased girls’ and women’s FGM risk. Prevention and response services for FGM were either unavailable or designated nonessential; school closures disrupted the vital protective role schools play; and families faced a loss of income and livelihoods, which in some contexts, resulted in the adoption of negative coping mechanisms.

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