By Isabelle Gerretsen
LONDON, Nov 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain is to spend £50 million ($64 million) on combating female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa, the government said on Friday, calling it the biggest single investment to date in ending the practice.
International development minister Penny Mordaunt said progress towards a global goal of eliminating FGM by 2030 was "at a critical juncture" with thousands of African communities already abandoning the practice thanks to grassroots campaigns.
"I am proud UK aid is supporting the growing Africa-led movement against FGM and empowering women and girls in some of the world's poorest countries to stand against the practice," she said in a statement.
FGM, which affects an estimated 200 million girls worldwide, involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia and can cause chronic pain, menstrual problems and infertility. Some girls bleed to death or die from infections.
Cutting is a rite of passage in many northern and central African countries, often with the aim of promoting chastity, but several international treaties forbid it.
Research published this month in BMJ Global Health found there had been a "huge and significant decline" in FGM in children under 14 across Africa since the 1990s.
Campaigner Julia Lalla-Maharajh said the fight against FGM had reached a "tipping point" in many countries as she welcomed the government's pledge.
"The good news is that change is already happening, and we are poised on the brink of that change growing exponentially," said Lalla-Maharajh, founder of the Orchid Project, in an email.
Mordaunt said a global push to end FGM would also help eliminate the harmful practice in Britain, which pledged £35 million in 2013 to end the practice.
An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
($1 = 0.7791 pounds)
(Reporting by Isabelle Gerretsen @izzygerretsen, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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