The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) announced on Thursday that approximately two-thirds of men, women, boys and girls oppose female genital mutilation in countries where the practice still stands.

In certain countries with the available data, 67 percent of girls and women and 63 percent of boys and men opposed the continuation of the practices within their communities, according to a press release from UNICEF.It was shown as well that in some countries the ones in opposition to the practice were mostly men. In Guinea, the country with the second highest prevalence of female genital mutilation in the world, 38 percent of men and boys were against the continuation of the practice, while only 21 percent of the women and girls were.

Prisca Korein, a 62-year-old traditional surgeon, holds razor blades before carrying out female genital mutilation on teenage girls from the Sebei tribe in Bukwa district, about 214 miles northeast of Kampala, December 15, 2008. Credit: James Akena/Reuters/Newsweek

In Sierra Leone, the pattern was the same, 40 percent of the men and boys wished the practice to end, compared to the desire of 23 percent of girls and women. The most outstanding difference took place in Guinea, where 46 percent of the men and boys assured the female genital mutilation has no benefit, compared with just 10 percent of the women and girls who thought the same.

“Although female genital mutilation is associated with gender discrimination, our findings show that the majority of boys and men are actually against it,” commented 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.”

The information also revealed that in just over half of the 15 countries with the available data, at least 1 in 3 women was opposed to the female genital mutilation. The proportion remained similar among boys and men in all but two of the overall countries.

Growing commitment

According to the UNICEF, besides the addition of a large majority of people opposing the practice where this is concentrated, there is also evidence of growing efforts and commitment to ending the female genital mutilation even though many still believe it is sociable acceptable.

Back in 2015, Gambia and Nigeria adopted a national legislation in which the female genital mutilation was criminalized. More than 1,900 communities, covering an estimated population of 5 million people, also made public declarations about abandoning the tradition.

The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly also added a target calling for the elimination of the dangerous practice and child marriage by 2030, the press release stated.

A link with education

The UNICEF’s research also showed the probability of an important link between a mother’s education and the likelihood that her daughter would be part of a genital mutilation procedure. Among 28 countries with available data, 1 in 5 daughters of women with no education has undergone the practice, compared to 1 in 9 daughters whose mothers have completed at least a secondary education.

At least 200 million of girls and women currently alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries, the UNICEF stated, as part of a data release for the international day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. About a half of the women who went through the procedure live in three countries, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Indonesia.

“Female genital mutilation differs across regions and cultures, with some forms involving life-threatening health risks,” commented UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. “In every case, it violates the rights of girls and women. We must all accelerate efforts, governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents, and families, to eliminate the practice.”

As for the ages, girls 14 and younger represented around 44 millions of those who were cut with a higher prevalence among the girls in Gambia at 56 percent, Mauritania 54 percent and Indonesia held the girls aged 11 and younger.

Determining the magnitude of female genital mutilation is essential to eliminate the practice, assured Rao Gupta. When governments collect and publish national statistics about it, they are better placed to understand the extent of the issue and accelerate efforts to protect the rights of millions of girls and women, she added.

According to the World Health Organization, the female genital mutilation is an umbrella term for all the procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or the injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

The procedure has no medical benefits, and it could harm and interfere the natural functions of the body. Some of the immediate consequences are severe pain, excessive bleeding, genital tissue swelling, fever due to infections, shock, among others.

The reason why so many communities perform it is because there are beliefs that the female genital mutilation would ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity. Some cultures assure the procedure reduce a woman’s libido and therefore, it helps her to resist extramarital sexual acts.

Source: UNICEF