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Last update: Feb 2013

Progress

UNICEF estimates that at least 120 million girls and women have experienced FGM/C in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated. Given present trends, as many as 30 million girls under the age of 15 may still be at risk. However, the data show that FGM/C is becoming less prevalent overall and the younger generation is less vulnerable to the practice.

 

More than 90 per cent of women aged 15–49 years have been cut in Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea and Somalia. Prevalence of FGM/C among women aged 15–49 years varies widely, from 98 per cent in Somalia, to 1 per cent in Cameroon, Uganda and Zambia.

 

Prevalence of FGM/C among women aged15–49 varies widely, from 98 per cent in Somalia to 1 per cent in Uganda, Zambia and Cameroon
Percentage of women 15–49 years old who have been cut

                     

Note: Data for Yemen refer to ever-married women.
Source: UNICEF global databases, 2012. Based on DHS, MICS and other national surveys, 1997-2011.

 

Overall, the prevalence of FGM/C has declined. However, the pace of reduction varies across countries. Younger women are less likely to have undergone any form of FGM/C than women in the older age groups and fewer daughters are circumcised compared to mothers (see following two graphs). Prevalence rates among daughters provide an enhanced understanding of FGM/C level among the youngest generations. Prevalence rates vary from 75 per cent in Mali to 1 per cent in Cameroon and Niger. However, an important variable to consider when analyzing daughters’ prevalence levels is the fact that many of these girls can be circumcised in the future, if for example, they are not yet of age to be circumcised. In countries where most of the girls are cut below the age of 1, the gaps between prevalence for mothers and daughters are likely to be indicative of a decrease in the levels of the practice, while in countries where most of the girls are cut at a later stage (such as for instance during puberty), the real extent of the decline is likely to be smaller than the current gaps since some girls are likely to be cut in the future, i.e. as soon as they reach the prevalent age at circumcision. A new module implemented in recent rounds of DHS and MICS carried out since 2010 addresses this gap by measuring the prevalence of FGM/C among girls aged 0-14 years (see “Methodology” page). However, until this module has been fully implemented in all countries reporting on FGM/C, the gaps between prevalence for mothers and daughters need to be read with caution, by taking into consideration the impact of age at circumcision.

 

Younger women are less likely to have undergone any form of FGM/C than women in older age groups
Percentage of girls and women 15–49 years old who have been cut, by age group

                     

Note: Estimates are weighted averages based on available data for 28 countries.
Source: UNICEF global databases 2012. Based on DHS, MICS and other national surveys, 1997–2009.

 

Fewer daughters are circumcised compared to mothers, in most of the countries with available data
Percentage of women 15–49 years old who have been cut and the percentage of women 15–49 years old with at least one daughter circumcised, in selected countries with available data

             

Note: Data for Yemen refer to ever-married women.
Source: UNICEF global databases 2012. Based on DHS, MICS and other national surveys, 1997–2010.

 

Big disparities exist between prevalence of FGM/C and support for the continuation of the practice; some of the most dramatic of these disparities can be observed in countries with the highest prevalence of FGM/C.

 

Support for continuation of the practice is not universal, even in countries with high prevalence of FGM/C
Percentage of women 15–49 years old who have been cut and the percentage of women 15–49 years old who believe that the practice of FGM/C should continue, in the countries where the prevalence of FGM/C is above 70 per cent

            

Source: UNICEF global databases 2012. Based on DHS, MICS and other national surveys, 2002–2010.

 

Unfortunately, changes in attitudes do not always bring about changes in the practice. In some countries, lower levels of support among mothers are correlated with higher prevalence among daughters. This can indicate the fact that the decision concerning FGM/C often revolves around the senior females of the household. Moreover, while women may truly oppose FGM/C, they may be unable to stop it by themselves due to the complex set of beliefs and social constraints that surround the practice.

 

In some countries, the percentage of daughters who undergo FGM/C is greater than the percentage of mothers who support the practice
Percentage of women 15–49 years old with at least one daughter circumcised and percentage of women 15–49 years old who believe that the practice of FGM/C should continue, in selected countries with available data

                    

Source: UNICEF global databases 2012. Based on DHS and MICS, 2002–2010.