Female mutilation a means of male power over women: UN rights chief

Mon Jun 16, 2014 1:13pm EDT
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By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - Female genital mutilation, the excision of the clitoris practised widely in African and many Muslim countries, is a means for men to maintain control of women and must be eradicated, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Monday.

Even if a current global campaign against the practice, dubbed FGM continued at its current level of success, it would be 60 years until the total of well over 125 million women and girls now affected was reduced by half, she said.

"FGM is a form of gender-based discrimination and violence. It is a violation of the right (of women and girls) to physical and mental integrity," Pillay told a gathering on the issue at the world body's Human Rights Council.

"As many as 30 million girls are at risk of undergoing it over the next decade, if current trends persist."

The traditional practice, often justified as a means of suppressing a woman's sexual desire and so preventing "immoral" behavior, "represents a way to exercise control over women," said the former South African High Court judge.

She was backed at the session by Chantal Campaore, wife of President Blaise Campaore of the West African republic of Burkina Fasso, who has been pushing efforts on the continent to persuade communities to abandon it.


U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay looks on after her address to the 26th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva June 10, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse