Female Genital Mutilation: What is Vacation Cutting?

The UN Human Rights Office has cautioned in a recent report that the global efforts against female genital mutilation (FGM) are being weakened by the migration of certain girls across borders to undergo the procedure.

Despite the increased efforts by many States to eliminate the practice, it persists globally, partly due to the secretive nature of cross-border and transnational FGM, as highlighted in the report.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, “Female genital mutilation is part of a continuum of gender-based violence and has no place in a human rights-respecting universe.

“It must be eliminated in all of its forms, and the gender stereotypes and patriarchal norms that anchor and perpetuate it uprooted.” 

How Many Girls are at Risk of Vacation Cutting?

The report indicated that about 4.3 million girls were at risk of undergoing FGM in 2023.

This data was gathered through extensive research and inputs from various States and civil society organizations worldwide.

Additionally, over 600,000 women in the European Union are believed to be living with the repercussions of FGM, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other harm to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

FGM is typically performed on young girls from infancy to around age 15.

“The practice has no health benefits for girls and women and cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths,” WHO added.

‘Vacation Cutting’ During School Holidays 

The report mentioned the practice of “vacation cutting,” where families, especially in Europe and North America, take their daughters back to their countries of origin during school breaks for FGM.

Some cases involve girls being taken to countries acting as “transnational FGM hubs,” and at times, it’s the “cutters” who travel across borders to perform the procedure.

The report highlighted the global issue of cross-border and transnational movements for FGM, emphasizing the heightened vulnerability of girls and young women in border communities due to shared cultural and ethnic connections that transcend national boundaries.

Address Root Causes

The report emphasized the need for increased regional and global collaboration to combat FGM effectively.

Recommended actions include dedicating sufficient resources to develop and enforce regional policy frameworks and cooperation agreements to tackle the cross-border issue and provide assistance to survivors.

States are encouraged to implement proactive prevention strategies in consultation with survivors, relevant civil society organizations, affected communities, as well as religious and traditional leaders.

“States around the globe have made human rights commitments to eradicate FGM and to advance gender equality.

“They should ensure a joined-up global approach that addresses the root causes and the consequences of FGM, by among others harmonising their legal and policy frameworks and ensuring their implementation, if they are to truly meet their commitments to end this harmful practice everywhere”, said Mr. Türk.

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