You are here: Home > Human Rights Statistics > Statistics on Health > Statistics on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Female genital mutilation – FGM, sometimes called female genital cutting or “circumcission” – refers to a number of practices, most of which involve cutting away part or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is a violation of the human rights of girls and women, particularly because it causes severe pain and has both immediate and long-term health consequences, not to mention the effect on female sexuality.
An estimated 100 to 140 million women and girls are affected by FGM. At least 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing the practice every year. Most girls undergo FGM when they are between 7 and 10 years old, although it is practiced in some cultures as early as a few days after birth or as late as just prior to marriage.
168,000 girls and women living in the United States have already undergone, or are at risk of undergoing FGM. In the UK, it is estimated that 66,000 women and girls have undergone, and 24,000 girls under the age of 11 are at risk of undergoing FGM. In the Gambia, 78.3 percent of women have undergone FGM. In Somalia the prevalence of FGM is almost universal: 98 percent (source).
There is some progress in the sense that rates are coming down:
Also the fact that younger women are less likely to have experienced FGM shows that the practice is becoming slowly less common:
The practice is common in many parts of Africa (in at least 28 African countries), as well as in some Asian and Arab Countries. Certain immigrant communities in Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States also engage in it. FGM is not prescribed by Islam or the Bible. It predates Islam and is practised across religions. It’s more a cultural than a religious practice. Countries have tried to ban the practice, with mixed success:
FGM is usually carried out by elderly people in the community (usually, but not exclusively, women) who have been specially designated for this task, or by traditional birth attendants. These people receive a fee from the girls’ family members, in money or in kind. In some cases, medical personnel perform the operation as well, for a fee. Among certain populations, FGM may be carried out by traditional health practitioners, (male) barbers, members of secret societies, herbalists, and sometimes by a female relative. (source)
The following map shows the percentages of girls and women aged 15–49 who have experienced FGM in some countries in Africa:
Just one example: FGM is legal in the Gambia, and UNICEF estimates that nearly 4/5 of the female population are subjected to it.