Iraqi Kurdistan: New Survey Reveals That the Majority of Women Have Undergone FGM
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 12:15 PM

23 February 2010

Results from an 18-month study, which were published last week in Erbil, revealed that over 70% of women and girls above the age of 14 had undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in Iraqi Kurdistan. While the custom of female genital mutilation has been condemned in recent years by activists, medical groups, and religious leaders, FGM is still deeply embedded in the cultural and traditional religious beliefs and practices.

Recent trends, however, have shown that the practice is slowly falling out of favor with younger parents. Among women under the age of 20, the prevalence rate of FGM is 57%, while in the 30 to 39 age group it is 74%. For women above 60 years old, the rate rises to nearly 96%.

"The study shows a clear correlation between the level of education and the attitudes towards FGM. Still, the FGM rate amongst university graduates is 30 per cent. But it becomes clear that with an increasing social status, women are more likely to question harmful traditions and alleged religious obligations," read a press statement from Wadi, the German relief organization, on the report. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting)

While practitioners believe FGM to be a religious tradition, research has shown that the custom preceded Kurdistan’s conversion to Islam with many Islamic leaders having denounced the practice. Because 84% of those surveyed believed FGM to be a religious duty, Wadi believes that religious leaders can bring about change and discourage the public from conducting the practice.

Although human rights activists and local media have raised public awareness about FGM, the subject is still predominantly seen as a social taboo. A bill introduced to the Kurdish parliament that would ban FGM has been postponed indefinitely, as many politicians are reluctant to address the issue of genital mutilation.

Compiled from: Qassim Khidhir, “Female Circumcision Ban Urged,” (11 February 2010).