At least 19 harmful practices, ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing, are considered human rights violations, according to the latest UNFPA report.
The report which focuses on the three most prevalent ones: female genital Mutilation, child Marriage, and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons, will be released on Tuesday, according to a statement by UNFPA Gambia.
“Harmful practices against girls cause profound and lasting trauma, robbing them of their right to reach their full potential,” UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said, according to UNFPA’s statement.
The press release statement added: “This year, an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation. Today, 33,000 girls under age 18 will be forced into marriages, usually to much older men. Also, an extreme preference for sons over daughters in some countries has fueled gender-biased sex selection or extreme neglect that leads to their death as children, resulting in 140 million ‘missing females’.
“In The Gambia, 3 in every 4 girls have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation while 1 in every 3 girls is married off before her 18th birthday. Although some of these practices are waning, due to population growth, the number of girls subjected to them will actually rise in the coming decades, if urgent action is not taken.
“Having ratified international treaties such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Gambia has a duty to end the harm, whether it’s inflicted on girls by family members, religious communities, health-care providers, commercial enterprises or state institutions. Although the Country has responded by enacting laws, but laws alone are not enough.
“Decades of experience and research show that bottom-up, grassroots approaches are better at bringing change, “We must tackle the problem by tackling the root causes, especially gender-biased norms. We must do a better job of supporting communities’ own efforts to understand the toll these practices are taking on girls and the benefits that accrue to the whole of society by stopping them,” as stated by Dr. Kanem UNFPA’s Executive Director.
“The economy and the legal system that supports gender inequality must be restructured to guarantee every woman equal opportunities, changing rules for property inheritance, for example, can eliminate a powerful incentive for families to favour sons over daughters and help to eliminate child marriage in the Gambia.
“Ending Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation worldwide is possible by 2030 if we invest in scaling up efforts to keep girls in school longer, teaching them life skills and engaging men and boys in social change.”