New data show fall in female genital mutilation – UN agencies

February 7, 2013

Changing attitudes have resulted in a decline in female genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East, where the practice is most prevalent, according to United Nations data released on Wednesday.

In 29 countries in those two regions, an average of 36 percent of girls aged 15-19 have been subjected to FGM, the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, compared with an estimated 53 percent of women aged 45-49.

In Kenya, women aged 45-49 are three times more likely to have been cut than girls aged 15-19, the U.N. data, released on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, show.

The U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution in December 2012 calling on member states to intensify efforts to wipe out the practice, an often crude and sometimes fatal operation, as a violation of the rights of girls and women.

“This progress shows it is possible to end FGM/C” said Anthony Lake, executive director of the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF). “FGM/C is not only deeply wrong, we can and must end it to help millions of girls and women lead healthier lives.”

Overall, at least 120 million girls and women have experienced FGM/C in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, while 30 million girls under the age of 15 may still be at risk, according to UNICEF.

Since 2008, when the Joint Programme on FGM/C was established by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF, almost 10,000 communities in 15 countries — about 8 million people — have renounced the practice. Last year a total of 1,775 communities across Africa declared their commitment to ending FGM/C.

In Egypt, where around 90 percent of girls and women have been subjected to FGM/C, the percentage of those aged 15-49 who have been married and who think the practice should stop, doubled from 13 percent to 28 percent between 1995 and 2008, according to the data.

“Empowered women and girls are key to breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and for the promotion and protection of human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of UNFPA.

UNICEF will publish a comprehensive report on global FGM/C data in mid-2013.

For more on FGM, visit TrustLaw Women

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