United Nations Building.

Nigeria and The Gambia have outlawed the harmful practice of female genital mutilation, a United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) report has said.

The UNFPA, in a report on the of 2017 International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, commemorated on Feb. 6, stressed the urgent need to abandon the practice.

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Female genital mutilation, called circumcision in some places, is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. It is a cultural practice in different parts of the world.

“With the support of UNFPA and other UN agencies, many countries have passed legislation banning FGM – including, in 2015, Nigeria and The Gambia – and developed national policies to achieve its abandonment.”

“Girls aged 14 and younger represent about 44 million of those who have undergone female genital mutilation.

“Around the world, 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of female genital mutilation.

“Female genital mutilation is a deeply entrenched cultural with devastating medical, social, emotional, legal and economic repercussions for young girls and women.

“Female genital mutilation is a violation of the human rights of women and girls, and a form of gender-based violence that must end now,” the UN population fund said.

UNFPA said the practice could cause short and long-term health complications, including chronic pain, infections, increased risk of HIV transmission, anxiety and depression, birth complications, infertility and, in the worst cases, death.

“It is internationally recognised as an extreme violation of the rights of women and girls.

UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, leads the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of female genital mutilation, it said.

According to it, the programme currently focuses on 17 African countries and also supports regional and global initiatives.

To promote the abandonment of the harmful practice, UNFPA said coordinated and systematic efforts were needed, and they must engage whole communities and focus on human rights and gender equality.

The UN agency added that such efforts must also address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.

UNFPA said it is working to mobilise health workers, including midwives, to resist social pressure to perform the harmful practice, and serve as advocates for prevention and protection in the communities they serve.

In 2012, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the first-ever resolution against female genital mutilation, calling for intensified global efforts to eliminate the practice.

In 2015, female genital mutilation was included in the Sustainable Development Goals under Target 5.3, which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices.