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Female Genital Mutilation: Still Widely Practiced in Africa, Middle East

A new U.N. report says although genital cutting is on the decline, female genital mutilation remains “almost universal” in some countries in the Middle East and Africa.

According to

“More than 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation ((FGM), and 30 million more girls are at risk in the next decade, the UNICEF said.

“The tradition involves removal of some or all of a female’s external genitalia. It can include cutting out the clitoris and sometimes sewing together the labia.

“Laws are not enough to stop the practice entirely, and more people must speak out in order to eliminate it among certain ethnic groups and communities, the researchers said.

“The tradition remains ‘remarkably persistent, despite nearly a century of attempts to eliminate it,’ it said. ‘As many as 30 million girls are at risk of being cut over the next decade if current trends persist.'”

Female Genital Mutilation: A Statistical Overview

According to

“The report, ‘Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change’, was released in Washington DC.

“The study, which pulled together 20 years of data from the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM is still practiced, found girls were less likely to be cut than they were some 30 years ago.

“They were three times less likely than their mothers to have been cut in Kenya and Tanzania, and rates had dropped by almost half in Benin, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria.

“But FGM remains almost universal in Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Egypt and there was little discernible decline in Chad, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Sudan or Yemen, the study found.”

According to UNICEF, the following are key steps needed to eliminate female genital mutilation:

  • 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 favor the abandonment of FGM/C, so families know that they are not alone – a crucial step to create a necessary critical mass and generate a chain reaction against FGM/C;
  • Increasing exposure of groups that still practice FGM/C to groups that do not;
  • Promoting the abandonment of FGM/C alongside improved status and opportunities for girls, rather than advocating for milder forms of the practice, such as “symbolic” circumcision;
  • Continuing to gather data to inform policies and programs, as a vital part of efforts to eliminate FGM/C.
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