Since 2003 the United Nations (UN) has sponsored the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, an annual awareness day that is part of its efforts to eradicate the age-old and violent practice.

This year the day comes uncannily after a flare of retrogressive incidents including the recent filing of a petition at the High Court in Machakos, Kenya, seeking to have female genital mutilation decriminalized. The pro-FGM court petition has anti-FGM campaigners up in arms as Kenya, has been making  great progress in the fight against female genital mutilation.

Read: FGM in 2018: Should women be allowed to voluntarily practice it and ‘uphold tradition’?

The fact is the practice has to remain outlawed as it violates women’s and girls’ rights to health, security, bodily integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.

Read: Together, We Can Stop FGM

This is why UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, lead the largest global program to accelerate the abandonment of FGM in over 17 African countries as well as regional and global initiatives. They seek to promote the abandonment of FGM through coordinated and systematic efforts that engage whole communities and focus on human rights and gender equality.

File picture. Boko Mohammed, a former excisor, holding the tool she used to perform the procedure at a community meeting in Kabele Village, in Amibara District. Ethiopia Photo: ANP/EPA/Unicef/Holt

“These efforts emphasize societal dialogue and the empowerment of communities to act collectively to end the practice. They must also address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.” according to the information statement of the UN website.

The Day also falls under the ongoing Spotlight Initiative, a joint project of the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.