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International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

Protect girls from circumcision

6 February is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. The circumcision of girls has also become an issue in Switzerland. Affected women and girls have the right to protection and support. Migrants can play a central role – by working to raise awareness in communities, they can make an important contribution to prevention.

 

In Switzerland, around 15,000 women and girls are estimated to be affected by circumcision or threatened by it. Those who have been circumcised need good healthcare and girls who are in danger need to be protected. Internationally, female genital mutilation is considered a human rights violation. The practice is forbidden and a criminal offence in Switzerland. However, in order to prevent circumcisions from happening, more than a ban is needed.

There are numerous motives for circumcising girls and the reasons and justifications are manifold. Engaged migrants are therefore needed for community work, to carry out awareness raising work in their environments. In Switzerland, more than 50 women and men organise events in their communities. With a lot of patience and respect for traditions, they create the basis of trust needed for a conversation with affected mothers, fathers and young women about traditions, child rights and the severe consequences of female genital mutilation. This work is essential for the protection of girls.

The community prevention work is supported and implemented by the Network Against Female Genital Cutting Switzerland. This was launched by Caritas Switzerland, Terre des Femmes Switzerland, Sexuelle Gesundheit Schweiz and the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights. The network is funded by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) through the federal government’s integration loan and the Federal Office for Health as part of its migration and health programme. 

Alongside its community work, the Network Against Female Genital Cutting Switzerland operates a website for women and girls who are affected and professionals working in relevant sectors. Professionals in the fields of health, asylum, integration, childcare, education and child protection are often trained and advised on the topic, but this often lacks the necessary expertise. The network also supports the development of focal points in different regions. These offer counselling and support on social and medical matters to both sufferers and professionals.

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