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Number of Victims of Female Genital Mutilation Is 70 Million Higher Than Thought

Mariame Habib, 17, was subjected to female genital mutilation as a child in her native Ethiopia. (UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-SA 2.0)


The real scale of female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide has been revealed in alarming new statistics on the eve of International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM. At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone ritual cutting, half of them living in just three countries, according to UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency.

“If current trends continue the number of girls and women subjected to FGM will increase significantly over the next 15 years,” according to a U.N. News Centre report.

The UNICEF data covers 30 countries, but half of the girls and women who have been cut live in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia. The new global figure includes nearly 70 million more girls and women than UNICEF estimated in 2014.

From The Guardian:

Somalia has the highest prevalence of women and girls who have been cut—98% of the female population between the ages of 15 and 49.

Claudia Cappa, the report’s lead author, said data from Indonesia shows FGM was practised more widely than researchers thought. “In countries where data was not available, we had previously only had anecdotal evidence. We knew Indonesia has a growing population of women and girls, but I would say (these figures) are higher than expected,” she said. “It shows it is a global issue, when the focus has previously been on Africa.” Some 44 million victims of FGM around the world are aged 14 or younger, and the majority of girls who have had their genitals mutilated were cut before they were five years old, Unicef’s research found.

In Guinea, where 97% of girls aged 15 to 49 are FGM victims despite the practice being outlawed, Unicef staff described seeing girls taken away from their families against their will to be cut, on the orders of village authorities. One five-year-old died from her wounds.

“Two days after this Christian community celebrated Christmas in a village, five-year-old Koumba was among 11 girls that were taken into the bush, some without their parents’ permission or knowledge, and others directly against strong parental protest, to receive their ‘initiation’,” the charity’s report said. “One day later, Koumba had bled to death before she could receive medical treatment.”

UNICEF said the picture was optimistic in some countries, with FGM prevalence rates declining by 41% in Liberia, 31% in Burkina Faso, 30% in Kenya and 27% in Egypt over the last 30 years.

But in real terms numbers are still rising, largely due to population growth, and if trends continue the number of girls and women suffering genital mutilation will increase significantly over the next 15 years, UNICEF said.

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

Roisin Davis
Róisín Davis is a literary agent, writer, and editor based in New…
Roisin Davis

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