Report Finds Gradual Fall in Female Genital Cutting in Africa

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A comprehensive new assessment of the ancient practice of female genital cutting has found a gradual but significant decline in many countries, even in some where it remains deeply entrenched.

Teenage girls are now less likely to have been cut than older women in more than half of the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated, according to the assessment by the United Nations Children’s Fund. In Egypt, for example, where more women have been cut than in any other nation, survey data showed that 81 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds had undergone the practice, compared with 96 percent of women in their late 40s.

The report’s authors stress that the tradition still has a tenacious hold in many places, but they say the fledgling declines may foreshadow more generational change. In almost half of the 29 countries, young women were less likely to support the practice than older women. The difference in Egypt was especially stark: only a third of teenage girls who were surveyed thought it should continue, compared with almost two-thirds of older women.

“The fact that young women are against the practice in places like Egypt gives us hope that they will be able to stop the cutting of their daughters,” said Claudia Cappa, lead author of the Unicef report. “We need to create conditions so they can act on their beliefs.”

Over all, Unicef estimates that more than 125 million girls and women have undergone the practice and that 30 million girls are at risk of it over the coming decade. The report, released Monday, is the first in which Unicef assessed the practice among all age groups based on household survey data from all of the 29 countries. Its last report, issued eight years ago, was based on 30 surveys in 20 of the countries; the new study includes 74 surveys done in 29 countries over two decades.

Source: The New York Times (link opens in a new window)

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Health Care
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health care, Women