Reported by Raheel Raza at the UN in Geneva – June 2014
I have been coming to the United Nations Human Rights Council for five years and lamented at the lack of women’ s issues being in the forefront. The documentary “Honor Diaries” which was released in March 2014 highlighted some of the atrocities committed against women worldwide and this film created (in my opinion) the first round of awareness that practices like FGM are spreading like and epidemic and need to be discussed openly. Honor Diaries is the film that breaks the barriers of silence and says that “Culture is no excuse for abuse”.
It came as a pleasant surprise therefore to arrive at the UN and find that on Monday June 16, a special High-level panel discussion had been convened for the entire morning regarding “The Identification of good practices in combating FGM”.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed the Honor Diaries statistics that more than 125 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM. Ms. Pillay said “FGM….generates profoundly damaging irreversible and life-long physical damage….FGM represents a way to exercise control over women”.
Its not a co-incidence that these are the very terms used in Honor Diaries when speaking of FGM and trying to explain this horrific practice of genital cutting to western audiences.
Another point made by one the of the panelists, Ms. Nakpa Polo, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Togo was “Human Rights are part of our culture and our culture does not include FGM”.
Ms. Marleen Temmerman, Director Department of Reproductive Health Research, World Health Organization spoke about the need to work with schools, media and Parliamentarians to create awareness – something that Honor Diaries is already doing.
Ms. Pillay also spoke about child marriage which was discussed at a later session.