FGM/C: the latest findings
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a dangerous age-old practice affecting millions of girls and women around the world. Here are the latest findings.
Is FGC an outdated practise?
No. An estimated 3.6 million girls and women are still at risk of being cut every year, while almost 200 million women around the world have already been cut.
How old are girls when they are cut?
Half the girls are cut before the age of five. Nowadays, girls tend to be cut at a younger age compared to earlier generations. It can be done more discreetly this way. Young girls are less resistant and heal more quickly. But this means a cultural shift as well: it’s may no longer be a coming-of-age ritual.
Does FGC only happen in Africa?
While FGC is practice widely in Somalia, Egypt, and Nigeria, Indonesia actually has the world’s highest number of cut girls. And it’s on the rise in countries like the US, the UK, and New Zealand due to diaspora communities. In the US alone, half a million girls and women are at risk of being cut every year.
Is it dangerous?
Some countries such as Egypt ‘medicalise’ the procedure, so doctors or nurses do the cutting, but others still rely on traditional practitioners, which leaves girls at a higher risk for infection and severe long-term complications.
How often does it happen in Kenya?
National data can be deceiving. The percentage of cut women ranges from 1 per cent in Western Kenya to 98 per cent in North-Western Kenya, with a national average of 21 per cent.
What role does culture play?
Ethnicity is one of the strongest factors contributing to FGC. The practice is often embedded deeply into the identity of the community: as a symbol of shared beliefs and values. That makes changing the practice very difficult.
Are FGC’s roots religious?
Many people think FGC has its roots in religion, but it was used long before Islam and Christianity came along. Today, the reasons for girls getting cut include marriageability, assurance of social status and virginity, aesthetics, and hygiene. Family honour and respect also play a role.
Why to mothers agree to having their daughters cut?
Often, they don’t have much choice, even if they themselves are opposed to the practice. Because the community and elders play such a large role, mothers may feel pressured into the decision.
Rural or urban?
FGC is still more common in rural areas. This can perhaps be explained by important contributing factors as poverty, lack of education and stronger community ties.
This article is based on ‘A State-of-the-Art Synthesis on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting’, published in August 2016 by the Population Council.
February 6th marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.