According to new research, rates of female genital mutilation (FGM) have fallen dramatically among girls in Africa in the last two decades. The study cited a “huge and significant decline” among girls 14 years old and younger. FGM involves removing all or part of a girl or woman’s external genitalia.
In the worst cases, victims can hemorrhage to death after they are cut or die of infections. Chronic pain, infertility and menstrual problems can also follow, as well as potentially fatal childbirth complications.
200 million women and girls have undergone FGM worldwide. The practice is most common in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
Data from 29 countries going back to 1990, found the biggest decline in FGM was in East Africa. The rate there dropped from 71% of girls under 14 in 1995, to 8% in 2016. Kenya and Tanzania, where 3-10% of girls endure FGM helped drive down the overall numbers. In North Africa, the rate fell from nearly 60% in 1990 to 14% in 2015. And West Africa saw a drop, from 74% of girls in 1996, to 25% in 2017. Researchers used data of more than 200,000 children, gathered for the Demographic Health Survey and UNICEF.
Each year, an estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk of female genital mutilation. Activists hope research will now examine how attitudes have changed toward FGM around the world, so that the data can be considered in its full context.
Image: “NO FGM Symbol – Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting”by Blatant World is licensed under CC BY 2.0