Britain announced a 35 million global aid programme in a bid to end the practice of female genital mutilation.
In what it said was the largest ever international
commitment to the issue, Britain's international development ministry said the
programme should reduce genital cutting by 30% in 10 African countries over
five years as well as support work further afield.
"It is time to break the taboo on genital
mutilation," said junior development minister Lynne Featherstone,
announcing the aid at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in
"For too long the international community has been
cowardly on this subject, finding it too difficult to tackle.
"Girls around the world have suffered a lifetime of
damage, sometimes even death, as a result."
Female genital mutilation is widely practised in east and
west Africa as well as parts of Asia and the Middle East.
It also takes place among immigrant communities in Western
countries where it is outlawed, including Britain, France, Canada and the
United States, where it is illegal in cases involving girls under the age of
The World Health Organisation estimates that 140 million
women and girls worldwide are living with the consequences of the cultural
practice, which can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, as well as
complications in childbirth.
It is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and
the age of 15.
The UN General Assembly passed a resolution last December
banning female genital mutilation.
Britain said its aid programme would build on this momentum,
working with governments to back laws banning the practice as well as working
with local communities to change cultural norms.
"Female genital cutting is one of the worst kinds of
gender violence," said Featherstone.
"We know most families want the best for their children
and education, and changing cultural norms, rather than merely condemnation, is