New Report: Stronger Measures Needed to Combat Harmful Practices Against Girls
Friday, July 25, 2014 9:25 AM

The number of girls subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage will continue to increase through 2050 due to exploding population growth in areas where these harmful practices are still common, including the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, according to new data released by UNICEF. The growth in population will "far surpass" the overall decline in the rate of these practices worldwide. UNICEF highlighted these findings at the first Girl Summit held in the United Kingdom on July 22. 

Stronger efforts are needed to protect girls in countries with high rates of FGM and child marriage, such as Somalia and Mali; otherwise, sixty-three million more girls will be subjected to FGM by 2050 and the frequency of child marriages will be the same in 2050 as it is today. According to UNICEF and the NGO Equality Now, such efforts can make a difference. For example, strong laws and aggressive prosecution in Kenya have significantly reduced the prevalence of FGM, from more than 50% of girls in 1980 to 20% in 2010, with complete elimination of the practice possible in Kenya before 2030.

UNICEF’s executive director, Anthony Lake, said “solutions must be driven by communities, families and girls themselves to change mindsets and break the cycles that perpetuate FGM and child marriage.” UNICEF is sponsoring “public discussions” in areas where FGM is common, in an effort to demonstrate that a majority of people within these countries are opposed to FGM. UNICEF hopes to help relieve the social and cultural pressures that drive families to have their daughters cut or married early.

Over 130 million women and girls are victims of FGM and over 700 million women currently living were child brides, with more than 230 million of those women married before the age of 15. Both FGM and child marriage violate the human rights of women and girls, often causing lasting physical and emotional harm and perpetuating cycles of disadvantage and poverty.

Compiled fromPoon, Linda, UNICEF Report On Female Genital Mutilation Holds Hope And Woe, (July 24, 2014); Batha, Emma, “’No time to lose’ in tackling FGM and child marriage-UNICEF,” Thomson Reuters Foundation (July 22, 2014).