New report finds millions more women and girls affected by FGM/C than widely acknowledged

Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C) is happening in far more countries around the world than widely acknowledged, and the number of women and girls who are affected is woefully underestimated, finds a new global report.

FGM/C is occurring in at least 92 countries, but only 51 (55%) have specific legislation against the practice, leaving millions without adequate legal protection.

The End FGM European Network, US Network to End FGM/C, and Equality Now have partnered to produce the report ‘Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Call for a Global Response’, bringing together for the first time wide-ranging information on FGM/C in countries not currently included in official global data.

According to UNICEF, at least 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM/C in 31 countries worldwide. This number only includes states where there is available data from large-scale representative surveys, incorporating 27 countries from Africa, together with Iraq, Yemen, the Maldives, and Indonesia.

Our research has now identified 60 other countries where the practice of FGM/C has been documented through small-scale studies, anecdotal evidence, indirect estimates, and media reports. The growing body of evidence reveals that FGM/C is taking place in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and North America.

No country in Asia or Latin America outlaws FGM/C. In the Middle East, it is only illegal in Oman and the Kurdistan region of Iraq, alongside Egypt and Sudan in North Africa.

FGM/C involves the partial or complete removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. The practice has no health benefits and can cause serious lifelong physical and psychological harm.

The procedure itself can be fatal, and data on the total number of deaths each year is unavailable.

FGM/C occurs across cultural, religious, and socio-economic groups. It is typically carried out on girls between infancy and age 18, and women are also occasionally subjected. While it is often done without anaesthetic, it is increasingly happening in medical settings with healthcare professionals.

Although the type and justifications for FGM/C vary, it is deeply rooted in gender inequality and the patriarchal desire to control female sexuality.

A dearth of accurate data is enabling governments to ignore the issue. Better statistical information can help put pressure on authorities to act, and gives a baseline from which the scale and effectiveness of interventions can be measured.

Dr. Ghada Khan, Network Coordinator of US End FGM/C Network says: “The global relevance of FGM/C, as highlighted in the findings of the report, calls for the collection and dissemination of reliable data on FGM/C prevalence across all regions, countries, and contexts in order to support FGM/C prevention efforts, and provide care and services to all women and girls who have undergone the practice.”

Governments need to strengthen investment for evidence-based research and enact and enforce comprehensive laws and policies. There is also an urgent need to improve support services for survivors, which requires increased investment from the international community.

Fiona Coyle, Director at the End FGM European Network said: “Everyone everywhere is called to substantially increase efforts towards the abandonment of FGM. We need increased political will, stronger laws and policies, increased community engagement, and increased investment to truly end this practice.”

Accurate data also assists grassroots organizations and researchers to attract funding as a lack of financial backing is a major problem hampering the work of women’s rights activists.

Flavia Mwangovya, Global Lead at Equality Now said: “The stories shared by brave survivors and activists demonstrate how women across the world are uniting in their commitment to end this harmful practice, irrespective of the type of FGM involved or where it occurs. We owe it to survivors and those at risk to ensure that political commitments made by governments to end FGM are finally fulfilled.”

End FGM/C U.S. Network is a collaborative group of survivors, civil society organizations, foundations, activists, policymakers, researchers, healthcare providers and others committed to promoting the abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in the U.S. and around the world. Our mission is to eliminate FGM/C by connecting, supporting, elevating and advocating on behalf of and with diverse U.S. stakeholders engaged in prevention, education, and care.

Twitter: @USEndFGMNetwork; Facebook: @USEndFGMNetwork

End FGM European Network (End FGM EU) is an umbrella of 27 organizations in 14 European countries working to ensure sustainable European action to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). We are the central platform connecting grassroots communities and European decision- makers. The Network facilitates cooperation between all relevant actors in the field of FGM both in Europe and globally. Our mission is to be the driving force of the European movement to end all forms of FGM.

Twitter: @ENDFGM_Network; Facebook: @endfgmeuropeannetwork; Instagram: @endfgmeu

Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of all women and girls around the world. Our campaigns are centered on four program areas: Legal Equality, End Sexual Violence, End Harmful Practices, and End Sex Trafficking, with a cross-cutting focus on the unique needs of adolescent girls.

Equality Now combines grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy to achieve legal and systemic change to benefit all women and girls, and works to ensure that governments enact and enforce laws and policies that uphold their rights.

Twitter: @equalitynow; Facebook: @equalitynoworg; Instagram: @equalitynoworg

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Stand With Us to Create a Just World for Women and Girls! Twitter: @equalitynow

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