Women's Rights are Human Rights

Female genital mutilation (FGM), which many young women in parts of Africa and the Middle East are forced to undergo as a coming-of-age rite, is starting to receive attention as a fundamental abuse of human rights.

In a case that is a turning point for the United States, Fauziya Kasinga, who fled her native country of Togo to avoid FGM and spent nearly two years in jail for illegally entering the United States, was recognized by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals as a legitimate refugee from human rights abuses.

This decision to recognize FGM as grounds for asylum could affect many women fleeing from the painful and dangerous practice, and should also increase recognition worldwide that rights of women are as legitimate as the rights of any other human.

Programs sponsored by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund in many countries where FGM is practiced are now working to encourage alternative initiation rites for young women and help them exercise more control over their lives.

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