More than 125 million girls and women alive today worldwide have been subjected to female genital mutilation and cutting ((FGMC), and 30 million girls are still at risk of being cut in the next decade, UNICEF said in its new report published yesterday in Washington DC, US.
The 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, the UN children agency said.
FGMC is, among others, a practice that consists of removing the woman’s clitoris at early age, usually between the age of five and 15, in conformity with the traditions.
In West Africa, FMGC is widespread in countries such as Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Conakry, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, and many more.
The practice is also overwhemly present in Egypt, Sudan and Kenya. A 13-year-old Egyptian girl died last month during her circumcision, apparently from an overdose of anesthetic drugs, Al-Arabiya TV and Egyptian online media reported.
However, the UNICEF report also noted that the majority of people in most countries where FGMC is concentrated oppose the harmful practice.
But despite that growing opposition, the risk stil persists, the report said.
“FGMC is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination,” UNICEF deputy executive director Geeta Rao Gupta said.
Surveys in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGMC persists show that girls are less likely to be cut than they were some 30 years ago, the report said.
And that support for the practice is in decline, even in countries where it remains almost universal, such as Egypt and Sudan.
But despite falling support, millions of girls remain in considerable danger.
The report highlights the gap between people’s personal views on FGMC and the entrenched sense of social obligation that fuels its continuation, exacerbated by a lack of open communication on this sensitive and private issue.
“What is clear from this report is that legislation alone is not enough. The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned.”
Photo: An Egyptian girl, Suhair al-Bata’a (13) who died during the operation of a female circucision. Credit: The Blaze.com.