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Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change

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A majority of people in most countries where female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is concentrated oppose the harmful practice, according to a new UNICEF report issued today. Despite that opposition, more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM/C and 30 million girls are still at risk of being cut in the next decade.

The report, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, is the most comprehensive compilation of data and analysis on this issue to date.

Surveys in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM/C persists show that girls are less likely to be cut than they were some 30 years ago, and that support for the practice is in decline, even in countries where it remains almost universal, such as Egypt and Sudan.

But despite falling support, millions of girls remain in considerable danger. The report highlights the gap between people’s personal views on FGM/C and the entrenched sense of social obligation that fuels its continuation, exacerbated by a lack of open communication on this sensitive and private issue.

“FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination,” said Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “What is clear from this report is that legislation alone is not enough. The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned.”

The UNICEF report finds through surveys that not only are most girls and women against the practice, but that a significant number of men and boys also oppose FGM/C. In three countries, Chad, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, more men than women want the practice to end.

In terms of trends, the report notes that in more than half of the 29 countries where FGM/C is concentrated, girls are less likely to be cut today than their mothers. Girls between 15 and 19 are three times less likely to have been cut than women aged 45-49 in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania. Prevalence has dropped by as much as almost half among adolescent girls in Benin, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria.

While FGM/C has been virtually abandoned by certain groups and countries, it remains entrenched in many others, despite the health dangers it presents to girls, and even where there is legislation against it and efforts by governments and NGOs to convince communities to stop.

In Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Egypt, FGM/C remains almost universal, with more than 9 out of 10 women and girls aged 15-49 being cut. And there has been no discernible decline in countries such as Chad, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Sudan or Yemen.

While the report welcomes legislation against FGM/C that has been introduced in the vast majority of countries where is practiced, it calls for measures that complement legislation and leverage positive social dynamics to bring about a change in social norms.

The report recommends opening up the practice to greater public scrutiny, to challenge the misperception that ‘everyone else’ approves of the practice. It also points to the role education can play in bringing further social change, noting that higher levels of education among mothers correspond to a lower risk that their daughters will be cut and that while in school, girls may develop ties with others who oppose FGM/C.

The report sets out key steps needed to eliminate FGM/C:

■Working with local cultural traditions rather than against them, recognizing that attitudes and conformity to FGM/C vary among groups within and across national borders;
Seeking to change individual attitudes about FGM/C, while addressing the entrenched expectations surrounding the practice across wider social groups;
■Finding ways to make visible the hidden attitudes that favour the abandonment of FGM/C so families know that they are not alone – a crucial step to create a necessary
A majority of people in most countries where female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is concentrated oppose the harmful practice, according to a new UNICEF report issued today. Despite that opposition, more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM/C and 30 million girls are still at risk of being cut in the next decade.

The report, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, is the most comprehensive compilation of data and analysis on this issue to date.

Surveys in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM/C persists show that girls are less likely to be cut than they were some 30 years ago, and that support for the practice is in decline, even in countries where it remains almost universal, such as Egypt and Sudan.

But despite falling support, millions of girls remain in considerable danger. The report highlights the gap between people’s personal views on FGM/C and the entrenched sense of social obligation that fuels its continuation, exacerbated by a lack of open communication on this sensitive and private issue.

“FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination,” said Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “What is clear from this report is that legislation alone is not enough. The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned.”

The UNICEF report finds through surveys that not only are most girls and women against the practice, but that a significant number of men and boys also oppose FGM/C. In three countries, Chad, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, more men than women want the practice to end.

In terms of trends, the report notes that in more than half of the 29 countries where FGM/C is concentrated, girls are less likely to be cut today than their mothers. Girls between 15 and 19 are three times less likely to have been cut than women aged 45-49 in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania. Prevalence has dropped by as much as almost half among adolescent girls in Benin, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria.

While FGM/C has been virtually abandoned by certain groups and countries, it remains entrenched in many others, despite the health dangers it presents to girls, and even where there is legislation against it and efforts by governments and NGOs to convince communities to stop.

In Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Egypt, FGM/C remains almost universal, with more than 9 out of 10 women and girls aged 15-49 being cut. And there has been no discernible decline in countries such as Chad, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Sudan or Yemen.

While the report welcomes legislation against FGM/C that has been introduced in the vast majority of countries where is practiced, it calls for measures that complement legislation and leverage positive social dynamics to bring about a change in social norms.

The report recommends opening up the practice to greater public scrutiny, to challenge the misperception that ‘everyone else’ approves of the practice. It also points to the role education can play in bringing further social change, noting that higher levels of education among mothers correspond to a lower risk that their daughters will be cut and that while in school, girls may develop ties with others who oppose FGM/C.

The report sets out key steps needed to eliminate FGM/C:

■Working with local cultural traditions rather than against them, recognizing that attitudes and conformity to FGM/C vary among groups within and across national borders;
Seeking to change individual attitudes about FGM/C, while addressing the entrenched expectations surrounding the practice across wider social groups;
■Finding ways to make visible the hidden attitudes that favour the abandonment of FGM/C so families know that they are not alone – a crucial step to create a necessary

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Published by: The United Nations Children's Fund on Jul 22, 2013
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Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting:
A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change
 
UgandaCameroonNigerTogoGhanaIraqBeninUnited Republic of TanzaniaYemenCentral African RepublicSenegalNigeriaKenyaCôte d'IvoireChadGuinea-BissauLiberiaMauritaniaEthiopiaEgyptDjiboutiGuineaSomalia1%1%2%4%4%8%13%15%23%24%26%27%27%38%44%50%66%69%74%Gambia76%Burkina Faso76%Sierra Leone88%Mali89%Sudan88%Eritrea89%91%93%96%98%
29
countries, more than
EgyptEthiopiaNigeriaSudanKenya andBurkina FasoMali andUnited Republic of TanzaniaGuinea and SomaliaCôte d'Ivoire andYemenChad and IraqEritrea and Sierra LeoneSenegal, Mauritaniaand NigerGambia, Ghana andCentral African RepublicGuinea-Bissau, Djibouti,Uganda and TogoLiberia, Cameroonand Benin
27.2million
919,000
23.8million
19.9million
12.1million
9.3 million
7.9 million
6.5 million
5.0 million
3.8 million
2.7 million
3.5 million3.4 million
1.3 million
YEMEN
In 97% of cases,girls underwent the procedure in theirhomes and 75% of them were cut usinga blade or razor
CÔTE D’IVOIRE
41% of girls and womenof Voltaique/Gurbackground support thecontinuation of FGM/C,compared to only 3% ofAkan girls and women
NIGERIA
35% of boys and menand 31% of girls andwomen report that they do not know what the opposite sex thinksabout FGM/C
SENEGAL
FGM/C prevalenceamong Wolof girlsand women rangesfrom a low of 0% inDiourbel to 35%in Matam
EGYPT
77% of girlswho haveundergoneFGM/C werecut by a medicalprofessional
MALI
58% of girls whohave been cutare daughtersof motherswho oppose the practice
GUINEA
19% of girls andwomen thinkFGM/C shouldstop, compared to 42% of boysand men
SIERRALEONE
51% of couplesdo not agreeon whetherFGM/C shouldcontinue or end
SUDAN
Girls and women with noeducation are nearly four times more likely to support the continuation of FGM/C than girls and women withsecondary or higher education
ERITREA
60% of girlsand womenregardFGM/C asa religiousrequirement
DJIBOUTI
62% ofcut girlsunderwent the procedurebetween theages of 5 and 9
SOMALIA
63% of girlswho underwentFGM/Chad theirgenitalia sewnclosed
KENYA
59% of girlsand womenwho have beencut do not seeany benefit to the practice
UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA
Women aged 45 to 49are approximately three times morelikely to have beencut than girlsaged 15 to 19
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
52% of cut girlsexperiencedFGM/Cbetween the ages of10 and 14
Number ofgirls and womenwho haveundergoneFGM/C
Above 80%51% - 80%26% - 50%10% - 25%Less than 10%FGM/C is not concentratedin these countries
FGM/C is concentrated in a swath of countries from the Atlanwide variations in the percentage of girls and women cut,
 
WHEN
In half of the countries, themajority of girls were cut
before age 5
. In the rest ofthe countries, most cuttingoccurs between 5 and 14years of age
HOW
Across a majority ofcountries, most daughtershave had their
genitaliacut, with some fleshremoved
BY WHOM
In nearly all countrieswhere FGM/C isconcentrated,
traditionalpractitioners
performmost of the procedures
WHY
Social acceptance
isthe most frequently citedreason for supporting thecontinuation of the practice
In most countries where FGM/C ispractised, the majority ofgirls and women think it should end
 
125
million girls and women
Sierra LeoneEgyptGuinea-BissauCôte d'IvoireGhanaBenin93%93%Togo89%Niger89%Iraq88%United Republic of Tanzania92%Cameroon84%Uganda83%Burkina Faso90%Kenya86%Central African Republic75%Senegal79%69%Nigeria62%Ethiopia63%56%Djibouti51%Chad36%Mauritania53%Sudan53%Liberia46%Eritrea49%35%Gambia 28%Somalia33%26%Guinea 19%Mali 20%Yemen48%
NIGER
55% of Christiangirls and womenhave undergoneFGM/C, compared to 2% of Muslimgirls and women
IRAQ
FGM/C isconcentratedin theregions ofErbil andSulaymaniyah
UGANDA
9% of girls andwomen support thecontinuationof FGM/C, even though nationalprevalence is only 1%
GHANA
In the highest prevalenceregion (Upper West),60% of women aged45 to 49 have undergoneFGM/C compared to 16%of girls aged 15 to 19
TOGO
21% of Muslimgirls and womenhave undergoneFGM/C, compared to 1% of Christiangirls and women
CAMEROON
85% ofboys andmen think that FGM/Cshould notbe continued
CHAD
27% ofboys andmen thinkFGM/C isrequiredby religion
BENIN
72% of Peulh girlsand women haveundergone FGM/C,compared to 0% ofgirls and women ofAdja and Fon ethnicity
MAURITANIA
On average,girls arecut when they arejust 1month old
GAMBIA
82% of girls and womenwho have undergoneFGM/C think the practiceshould continue, compared to 5% of girls and womenwho have not been cut
ETHIOPIA
41% of girls and womenwith no education support the continuation of FGM/Ccompared to 5% of girlsand women with secondaryor higher education
LIBERIA
Girls and women from the poorest householdsare twice as likely to have experiencedFGM/C as those from the richest households
GUINEA-BISSAU
18% ofcut girlsunderwent the procedureafter age 15
BURKINA FASO
76% of girls andwomen havebeen cut, but only9% favour thecontinuationof FGM/C
This map is stylizedand not to scale. Itdoes not reflect aposition by UNICEF on the legal status of anycountry or territoryor the delimitation ofany frontiers. The finalboundary between theRepublic of the Sudanand the Republic ofSouth Sudan has notyet been determined.
ic Coast to the Horn of Africa, withoth within and across countries

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