125 Million Suffer From Female Genital Mutilation in Africa, Middle East

Written by Carimah Townes

At least 125 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa and the Middle East, according to a UNICEF report issued on Monday. In 50 percent of the countries practicing FGM — roughly 29 across the two regions — the procedure involves girls under 5-years-old. In other countries, FGM occurs when girls are between the ages of 5 and 14.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Also known as “female genital cutting (FGC),” most FGM occurs in Africa and a few Middle Eastern countries, although it does take place in parts of Central and South America. There is no one reason that the practice is continued; in places where FGM does take place, it is considered a social norm. Many believe the practice preserves girls’ virginity by suppressing “sexual desire” — the reason most Westerners associate the practice with — and can also signal a transition into womanhood when performed on older girls. Families often force FGM upon their daughters as a means to render them more desirable for marriage, and to conform to social expectations. Girls are often perceived as “dirty” if they are not cut.

All told, numerous consequences are commonly associated with the procedure, with “severe pain, shock, [and bleeding]” among some of the immediate effects. Moreover, because FGM disturbs girls’ anatomy, it has a litany of long-term impacts. Women and girls who undergo FGM often experience infertility, difficulties during childbirth, and painful intercourse. Long-lasting infections can develop in the bladder, pelvis, and reproductive system. In addition to physical harm, FGM can also take a toll psychologically. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, is a prevalent issue among girls who undergo the process.

UNICEF found that the prevalence of FGM varies across the 29 countries referenced in its report, and grouped them into five tiers to reflect those rates. For example, eight countries have high percentages — above 80 percent — of girls who are cut. Somalia and Egypt, for instance, claim that 98 percent and 91 percent of girls are cut, respectively. Egypt alone hosts one in five of the total number who have been subjected to the procedure. Other nations included in the study have much lower rates of FGM, such as Uganda and Cameroon, in which only 1 percent of girls undergo cutting. The process is currently illegal within the United States.

The international children’s organization is not alone in assessing FGM as detrimental to the health and well-being of young girls. FGM ultimately strips freedoms away from those subjected to the process, Amnesty International argues, including the rights to “physical and mental integrity, freedom from violence…freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex, and freedom from torture,…inhuman and degrading treatments, [and] life (when the procedure results in death).” As such, the procedure can be considered a human rights violation, UNICEF says, under the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and possibly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Activists are currently working with government bodies, non-governmental organizations, and civil society groups to eradicate FGM through legislation, educational messaging, and localized advocacy.

According to the organization, 30 million additional girls will suffer from FGM if discourse continues as is. “FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta said in a blog post from the organization announcing the report. “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.”

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: hdtpcar

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Radoslava Todorova

What God has given is not good to be changed.

Gloria Maria Ortega Zuina

El Derecho a la Integridad Física y Mental está incluido en la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos promulgada por la ONU en 1948.

Shaheen N.
Shaheen N.1 years ago

I shared a similar post with the link: http://www.care2.com/news/member/440476508/3719409.

Marija Mohoric
Maria Mohoric1 years ago

Disgusting...tks for sharing

s M.
S M.1 years ago

Is this 2014 or 1814?!!

How is it that some countries. cultures have not evolved atall despite having access to education, other ideas via television, computers? ... Some religions discourage change, openness or the leaders lose power. Those leaders are male and 2 religions particularly guilty of female repression are the Roman Catholic and Islam.

Female Genital interference bad then some cultures sew the Labia together which can cause many problems in Labour and Delivery > death of woman or baby. This extra to fact female may be only a teenager giving birth after Child marriage and insensitive intercourse by older husband.

Siobhan James
Siobhan James1 years ago

It goes to show how vital education and knowledge is. Void of any education, men are in the position to brainwash their women into this barbaric practice. They believe mutilating themselves, preserves them for their husbands. Exactly how does being void of sexual pleasure allow you to feel happy with some man. Especially when they choose husbands for girls as young as five years old.

Ana Marija R.
Ana R1 years ago

No doubt signed... with hope.

Geoff P.
Geoff P.1 years ago


Erik Roth
Ernest R.1 years ago

@ Anne M. "I wonder if those men ' get off ', doing this to these women"...I don't think so. It's the women who do it to girls. I can't understand why, in a culture that promotes male sexuality,
men prefer to have a sexual partner that has been deprived of sexual pleasure. For me, a woman's sexual response is the most beautiful part of sexual activity.

pam w.
pam w.1 years ago

Suba, I understand.

And I think that the possibility of thousands of women being beaten, cast off or even KILLED for standing up against FGM isn't very likely to happen! If you're unschooled, possibly illiterate, have no job skills, have no property of your own and can't find a place to live without a man, you'll stick with ''the devil you know''.