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This article from the Lancet looks at reports of increased risk of FGM during lockdowns across the globe. Although 26 countries in the Middle East and Africa have banned FGM, in many countries the practice is still too common. FGM is rooted in local and cultural practices within families and communities.

Read an excerpt below and the full article here.

Worryingly, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, it is deepening inequalities, and it could soon have catastrophic effects on women and girls, as previous experience in responding to humanitarian crises and outbreaks has shown. The COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate existing gender inequalities and increase the risk of gender-based violence. Schools closures, movement restriction, and confinement hamper access to prevention, protection, and care services, leaving girls vulnerable, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

According to the anti-FGM organisation Orchid, from March, 2020, early in the COVID-19 crisis, reports began to emerge from their local grassroots partners that they were witnessing elevated rates of FGM. It is a worrying signal. According to their report Impact of COVID-19 on Female Genital Cutting, built from surveys with grassroots activists, COVID-19 lockdowns present opportunities to carry out FGM “undetected”, and the lack of integration of services within the COVID-19 response is leaving girls at risk with no recourse to essential prevention, protection, and support services. The latest UN Population Fund (UNFPA) projections suggest that due to the disruption of programmes to prevent FGM in response to COVID-19, 2 million cases might occur over the next decade that could have been averted. “The number of women unable to access family planning, facing unintended pregnancies, gender-based violence and other harmful practices could skyrocket by millions of cases”, warns UNFPA.