IHEU representative Hannah Bock raised two examples of traditional practices that are continuing to impede efforts to reduce maternal mortality: child marriage in Afghanistan and the forced feeding of young girls in Mauritania.
The statement text is available in full below.
Video of the statement can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/IHEUUnitedNations#p/f/4/wQhaRyOeoUs
International Humanist and Ethical Union
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 18th Session (12 to 30 September 2011)
Agenda Item 2/3: Reports of the High Commissioner on Maternal Health
Speaker: IHEU Representative, Hannah Bock, Thursday 15 September 2011
Maternal Mortality and Traditional practices
Thank you, Madam President.
We welcome the report of the High Commissioner on Maternal Health [A/HRC/18/27] and salute her remarkable work. In her report she noted that the current decline of maternal mortality is sadly insufficient to achieve MDG 5 and that the global problem has its roots in traditional practices.
We would like to add two more examples to those she gave:
First, we note the alarming number of pregnancy-related deaths in Afghanistan, 20,000 per year, resulting from grave social and gender inequality, and dangerous practices such as child marriage. This situation is totally unacceptable. Ten years after the birth of a new Afghanistan, the government must fulfil its promise of change.
Secondly, the High Commissioner noted the problem of lack of food, but may we bring to her attention the little known practice of “force feeding” or lablouh, in Mauritania. Young girls, often as young as 9 to 12 are forced to consume ten thousand calories per day in order to be attractive enough to be given in marriage. In special pharmacies, families buy hormonal drugs intended for livestock in order to fatten their daughters. If the children refuse, they are severely punished by the female fattener. The result is that one out of ten women in Mauritania is severely obese, weighing more than one hundred kilos. These practices entail a high risk of diabetes, pre-eclampsia in pregnancy, multiple organ failure, miscarriage and maternal mortality.
May we suggest that the Office of the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women investigate and report on this practice.
Finally, Madam President, we are confident that with the dedication and leadership of the High Commissioner, we can achieve great progress towards MDG 5 by 2015.
Thank you, Madam.