Africa

There's been a 'huge and significant decline' in FGM in African children. But that doesn't tell the whole story

A girl from the African Hebrew Israelite community, popularly known as "the Black Hebrews", hides behind an adult during a celebration for the holiday of Shavuot in the southern town of Dimona June 15, 2014. Identifying themselves as African Hebrew Israelites, about 300 African-Americans arrived in 1969 in the sleepy desert town of Dimona, claiming to be descendants of the ancient Israelites and a right to settle in the Jewish state. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (ISRAEL - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3TXOZ

20 years of data. Image: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Lin Taylor
Journalist, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Africa?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Africa is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Africa

Female genital mutilation has dropped drastically among African children this century, research shows, but campaigners said on Wednesday that teenagers and young women remained at risk of the harmful practice.

Image: BMJ Global Health

Known as FGM, female genital mutilation is a ritual that usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, including the clitoris. Cutting is a rite of passage in many societies, often with the aim of promoting chastity.

It can cause chronic pain, menstrual problems, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. Some girls haemorrhage to death or die from infections. It can also cause fatal childbirth complications in later life.

Analysing data spanning more than 20 years, BMJ Global Health said in a study there was a "huge and significant decline" in FGM in children under 14 across Africa.

East Africa had the biggest fall in its prevalence rates, dropping to 8 percent in 2016 from 71 percent in 1995, according to the BMJ study published on Tuesday.

In north Africa, prevalence rates fell to 14 percent in 2015 from nearly 60 percent in 1990, the report said; west Africa dropped to about 25 percent in 2017, from 74 percent in 1996.

The United Nations children's agency UNICEF estimates that 200 million women and girls globally have undergone FGM, with the highest prevalence in Africa and parts of the Middle East.

Have you read?

Good news but...

Campaigners welcomed the drop but said FGM also affects teenagers and young women, a demographic outside the study.

"We are pleased to see that the numbers are coming down in a lot of countries," said Emma Lightowlers, a spokeswoman for campaign group 28TooMany, which does research on FGM in Africa.

"But it doesn't tell the whole story and there are other groups where cutting takes place after the age of 14. It takes place in teenagers, or in fact, even in women in preparation for marriage," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Julia Lalla-Maharajh, founder of the Orchid Project - which campaigns against female genital cutting - agreed.

"Growing efforts to end the practice are having an impact (but) girls in this group may still be cut when they get older," she said in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Although girls under 14 are most at risk, research should include those aged 15-19, said British-based charity Forward, which supports FGM survivors from African communities.

"This data should not make us complacent to say that all those girls are risk-free," said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, head of Forward. "We need to work towards ensuring these girls are supported and protected from FGM."

(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
AfricaGlobal HealthEducation
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Africa's debt crisis needs a bold new approach. Here's what countries can do

Danny Bradlow

February 28, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum