12 facts about female genital mutilation and where it happens

Thomson Reuters Foundation, Thursday 6 Feb 2020

A woman lays out the tools she uses to perform female genital mutilation in Somalia (Photo: UNFPA)

Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains as prevalent as it was 30 years ago in a handful of countries, thwarting global efforts to eradicate it, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF said on Thursday, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.

Here are 12 facts about the practice:

1. FGM dates back over 2,000 years and is practised across many cultures and religions.

2. An estimated 200 million girls and women globally have been cut.

3. It is commonly linked to about 30 countries, mostly in Africa but studies suggest it may be practised by communities in about 50 countries worldwide.

4. The ritual, often justified for cultural or religious reasons, is underpinned by the desire to control female sexuality.

5. FGM typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. In some cases the vaginal opening is sewn up. Other procedures, more common in parts of Asia, include nicking or pricking the clitoris.

6. It can cause long-lasting mental and physical health problems including chronic infections, menstrual problems, infertility, pregnancy and childbirth complications.

7. Somalia has the world's highest FGM prevalence (98% of women have been cut), followed by Guinea, Djibouti, Mali and Sierra Leone. Egypt has the greatest number of women who have been cut.

8. Most of the 28 countries in Africa where FGM is endemic have banned it, although enforcement is generally weak. Countries with no law include Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone and Somalia.

9. There is an increasing trend for FGM to be carried out by health professionals rather than traditional cutters, particularly in Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria and Sudan.

10. World leaders have pledged to end FGM by 2030, but the practice remains as common as it was 30 years ago in Somalia, Mali, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Chad and Senegal.

11. Even in countries where it has become less common, progress would need to be at least 10 times faster to meet the 2030 target.

12. In countries affected by FGM, seven in 10 women think the practice should end. Half of women who have themselves been cut would like to see it stop. Sources: UNICEF, 28 Too Many

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