New UNICEF statistical report on female genital mutilation shows harmful practice is a global concern
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern notes that half of the girls and women who have been cut live in three countries - Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia - and refers to smaller studies and anecdotal accounts that provide evidence FGM is a global human rights issue affecting girls and women in every region of the world.
Female genital mutilation refers to a number of procedures. Regardless of which form is practiced, FGM is a violation of children’s rights.
"Female genital mutilation differs across regions and cultures, with some forms involving life-threatening health risks. In every case FGM violates the rights of girls and women. We must all accelerate efforts - governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents and families – to eliminate the practice," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta.
According to the data, girls 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in Gambia at 56 per cent, Mauritania 54 per cent and Indonesia where around half of girls aged 11 and younger have undergone the practice. Countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15 to 49 are Somalia 98 per cent, Guinea 97 per cent and Djibouti 93 per cent.
In most of the countries the majority of girls were cut before reaching their fifth birthdays.
The global figure in the FGM statistical report includes nearly 70 million more girls and women than estimated in 2014.This is due to population growth in some countries and nationally representative data collected by the Government of Indonesia. As more data on the extent of FGM become available the estimate of the total number of girls and women who have undergone the practice increases. As of 2016 30 countries have nationally representative data on the practice.
“Determining the magnitude of female genital mutilation is essential to eliminating the practice. When governments collect and publish national statistics on FGM they are better placed to understand the extent of the issue and accelerate efforts to protect the rights of millions of girls and women,” said Rao Gupta.
Momentum to address female genital mutilation is growing. FGM prevalence rates among girls aged 15 to 19 have declined, including by 41 percentage points in Liberia, 31 in Burkina Faso, 30 in Kenya and 27 in Egypt over the last 30 years.
Since 2008, more than 15,000 communities and sub-districts in 20 countries have publicly declared that they are abandoning FGM, including more than 2,000 communities last year. Five countries have passed national legislation criminalizing the practice.
Data also indicate widespread disapproval of the practice as the majority of people in countries where FGM data exists think it should end. This includes nearly two-thirds of boys and men.
But the overall rate of progress is not enough to keep up with population growth. If current trends continue the number of girls and women subjected to FMG will increase significantly over the next 15 years.
UNICEF, with UNFPA, co-leads the largest global programme towards the elimination of FGM. It works at every level with governments, communities, religious leaders and a multitude of other partners to end the practice.
With the inclusion of a target on eliminating FGM by 2030 in the new Sustainable Development Goals, the international community’s commitment to end FGM is stronger than ever.