Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation

Although female genital mutilation is recognized as a violation of fundamental human rights, the practice is still prevalent in many countries. It is estimated that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide are victims of female genital mutilation, 92 million of them living in Africa. 3 million girls are at risk each year (or more than 8,000 girls each day) for female genital mutilation in Africa. Although women of all ages are at risk for female genital mutilation, it is typically performed on girls between the ages of 4 and 12. From: Female Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet, World Health Organization (Fact sheet N°241) (February 2010).

Female genital mutilation is most common in western, eastern and north-eastern regions of Africa, and some countries in Asia and the Middle East. In some countries such as Somalia, Guinea, and Egypt, over 95% of all women between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine are victims of female genital mutilation. From: Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs and Donna Clifton, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Data and Trends, Population Reference Bureau, 5 (2008) (PDF, 9 pages). In other countries, such as Ethiopia, Mali and Mauritania, 60% or more of girls undergo female genital mutilation before their fifth birthday. From: Changing a Harmful Social Convention: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, Innocenti Research Center, United Nations Children's Fund, 6 (May 2008) (PDF, 54 pages). Many countries in Africa have enacted laws prohibiting female genital mutilation, but these laws are rarely enforced. For more information on why female genital mutilation is performed, see the Causes and Risk Factors section. For more information on the laws that prohibit female genital mutilation in Africa and in other parts of the world, please see the Law & Policy section.

Due to immigration from Africa to industrialized nations, there have been cases of immigrant communities in North America and Europe practicing female genital mutilation. For example, UNICEF has estimated that approximately 6,700 girls and women in Switzerland are victims of female genital mutilation or are at risk of undergoing the procedure. From: Changing a Harmful Social Convention: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, Innocenti Research Center, United Nations Children's Fund, 4 (May 2008) (PDF, 54 pages). In addition, some immigrant families bring daughters back to their native countries to subject their daughters to female genital mutilation. Certain nations, including Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, have outlawed female genital mutilation, even if it is performed in another country. These nations have prosecuted the perpetrators, usually parents of the girls, and have been successful in imposing jail time and monetary fines.

Many organizations and governments are working to reduce the prevalence of female genital mutilation, but progress has been slow. In 2008, several United Nations agencies, including the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and the World Health Organization, issued a joint statement calling all states, international and national organizations and communities to take action to end female genital mutilation. World Health Organization, Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, An Interagency Statement (2008) (PDF, 48 pages). For information on governments and organizations working to eradicate female genital mutilation, please see Governmental and Non-Governmental Responses section.

Compiled from: Female Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet, World Health Organization (Fact sheet N°241) (February 2010); Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs and Donna Clifton, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Data and Trends, Population Reference Bureau, 5 (2008) (PDF, 9 pages); Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, An Interagency Statement, World Health Organization (2008) (PDF, 48 pages); Changing a Harmful Social Convention: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, Innocenti Research Center, United Nations Children's Fund, 4 (May 2008) (PDF, 54 pages); and Marcus Oscarsson, Scandinavia Fights Female Circumcision, in GlobalPost (29 September 2009).