Monday, August 05, 2013

30 Million Girls Face Genital Mutilation Despite Overwhelming Opposition - UNICEF

Source: UNICEF

A majority of people in most countries where female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is concentrated oppose the harmful practice, according to a new UNICEF report issued today. Despite that opposition, more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM/C and 30 million girls are still at risk of being cut in the next decade.

The UNICEF report, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, is the most comprehensive compilation of data and analysis on this issue to date. 

Surveys in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM/C persists show that girls are less likely to be cut than they were 30 years ago, and that support for the practice is in decline. 

Ghana is among the countries where there has been a positive decline in the harmful practice with a national average of about 4% of Ghanaian girls and women 15-49 years having been cut. While the percentage is lower than many other countries, this still translates to several hundred thousand women and girls. Also, there are areas of the country, for example the Upper West region, where FGM/C is much more prevalent with 16% of all girls aged 15-19 years having been cut. 

UNICEF Representative Susan Ngongi said the decline in prevalence in Ghana was promising. But she stressed that national averages should not blind people to the ongoing practice in pockets of Ghana. 

“While FGM/C has been abandoned by the majority of Ghanaians, it still happens in some parts of the country, despite the health dangers it presents to girls,” she said. “In the highest prevalence region in Ghana (Upper West), 60% of women aged 45 to 49 have undergone FGM/C compared to 16% of girls aged between 15 to 19 years. It is promising to see this trend against FGM/C, but let us not rest until every girl is protected. 

“Girls and women who are cut are mutilated at a very tender age. 80 per cent of cut girls in Ghana experienced FGM/C before their fifth birthday. Among girls in Ghana who have undergone FGM/C (as reported by their mothers), just under 10% per cent have been cut by nurses, midwives or other health professionals.” 

Ms Ngongi said that opposition to FGM/C in Ghana could also mean that some girls were not reporting the mutilation or cutting that they had experienced 

“A longitudinal study in Ghana showed that a substantial number of adolescent girls who initially reported having undergone FGM/C later denied being cut. Researchers believe denial of having undergone the procedure was influenced by exposure to anti-FGM/C interventions and by passage of a law banning FGM/C,” she said. 

Ghana passed a law against FGM/C in 1994, with amendments in 2007. 

The UNICEF report recommends opening up FGM/C to greater public scrutiny and points to the role education can play in bringing further social change, noting that higher levels of education among mothers correspond to a lower risk that their daughters will be cut. It will also be important to engage men and boys in ending the practice of FGM/C and continue strong support for empowering girls. 

Background Information

The 29 countries represented in the report are: are Benin; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Cote d’Ivoire; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Iraq; Kenya; Liberia; Mali; Mauritania; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; Sudan; Togo; Uganda; United Republic of Tanzania; and Yemen. 

About UNICEF 

UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

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