Worldwide, there are 125 million girls and women alive today who have been subjected to female genital mutilation, also known as cutting. Cutting refers to all procedures which involve cutting away part or all of a girl’s external genitalia. Globally, the practice is recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women and is considered a form of violence against women. Cutting causes causes severe pain and has several immediate and long-term health consequences, including prolonged bleeding, infections, infertility and even death.

In a recent report launched by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there was a very encouraging finding: support for this practice is declining. In fact, the majority of people in countries where cutting is concentrated actually oppose this harmful practice. Unfortunately, despite overwhelming opposition, the report estimates that in the next decade there are still 30 million girls under the age of 15 in danger of this harmful practice.

This is because there is a gap between people’s personal views on cutting and the sense of social obligation to continue the practice. For decades, cutting has been regarded an entrenched social norm in many countries. As a result, many people who personally oppose the practice keep their thoughts hidden and allow girls to be cut because they think “everyone else” approves of the practice. This viscous cycle continues due to a lack of open communication on this sensitive issue.

Some key steps to overcoming this gap include increasing education for women and girls on the harmful effects of the practice, and exposing groups that still follow the practice to those that do not in order to make the attitudes against cutting more visible.

We must work together to strengthen the calls to end cutting made by thousands of women and men, girls and boys worldwide. We must continue to speak out against this harmful practice. The elimination of female genital mutilation means a better life and more promising futures for millions of women and girls, their families and entire communities.