Two out of every three men, women, boys and girls in countries where female genital mutilation is common say they want the practice to end, say data from the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“Although female genital mutilation is associated with gender discrimination, our findings show that the majority of boys and men are actually against it,” said Francesca Moneti, UNICEF Senior Child Protection Specialist.

“Unfortunately, individuals’ desire to end female genital mutilation is often hidden, and many women and men still believe the practice is needed in order for them to be accepted in their communities.”
According to the latest figures, 27 per cent of women aged 15-49 in Nigeria have undergone some form of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

That’s around 19.9 million women, meaning 16% of the 125 million FGM survivors worldwide are Nigerians.
By sheer population, Nigerian women account for the highest absolute number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide, after Egypt and Ethiopia.

In countries where data is available, men oppose FGM more strongly than women.
At least 38% of men and boys are against FGM in Guinea – the country with the second highest prevalence in the world – compared to 21% of women and girls.
The same trend is seen in Sierra Leone.

The most striking difference between men and women’s perceptions regarding FGM is also in Guinea, where 46 per cent of men and boys say FGM has no benefit, compared with just 10 per cent of women and girls, UNICEF has found.
The findings also show that in just over half the 15 countries with available data, at least 1 in 3 girls and women say FGM has no benefits.

The proportion is very similar among boys and men in all but two of the 12 countries with data.


Legislation and commitment
In 2015, both Gambia and Nigeria adopted national legislation criminalising FGM.
More than 1,900 communities, covering an estimated population of 5 million people, in the 16 countries where data exist, made public declarations to abandon FGM, said UNICEF.

Nigeria uses the 2015 Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act but FGM is still widely practised, particularly in the south, with high prevalence rates in Ebonyi and Osun.

According to UNICEF, the gatekeepers of culture and tradition – mostly grandmothers, mother-in-laws; religious, community and traditional leaders continue to promote this harmful practice in many areas.

It is still widely held as a tribal traditional practice by such gatekeepers is also practiced under the false belief that it preserves chastity and purification, family honour, and hygiene, and that it protects virginity and prevents promiscuity. Some also falsely believe that it enhances fertility, said the Fund, which along with the UN Population Fund, leads the largest global programme to encourage elimination of FGM.

Sustained goals and targets
The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015 include a target calling for the elimination of all harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage by 2030.

UNICEF’s research also reveals a possible link between a mother’s education and the likelihood that her daughter will be cut.
Among the 28 countries with available data, around 1 in 5 daughters of women with no education have undergone FGM, compared to 1 in 9 daughters with mothers that have at least a secondary education.

At least 200 million girls and women alive today in 30 countries around the world have undergone FGM – a range of procedures that can cause extreme physical and psychological pain, prolonged bleeding, HIV, infertility and death.

“Data can play an important role in exposing the true opinions of communities on female genital mutilation,” said Moneti.
“When individuals become aware that others do not support the practice it becomes easier for them to stop FGM. More work is needed with young people, men and women, entire communities and religious and political leaders, to highlight these findings, and the harmful effects of FGM, to further accelerate the movement to end the practice.”

WRITTEN BY By Judd-Leonard Okafor, @judd_leonard |