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Zero Tolerance: the striking data behind female genital mutilation

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On February 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is observed. These procedures—recognized and criticized as a violation of women’s basic human rights in the international community—involve partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

This practice does not provide any health benefits and instead poses serious risks to women's health, including chronic infections, pain, menstrual problems, and complications during childbirth. Its eradication has even been set as one the SDGs, specifically as SDG target 5.3.

Currently, at least 200 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone FGM. Data from the Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys reveal that more than half of women aged 15-49 in 13 countries across western, eastern, and north-eastern Africa have undergone FGM.  In Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti, the prevalence of FGM is extremely high: more than 90 percent of women ages 15-49 have experienced FGM.  

Eliminating FGM presents numerous challenges. While countries are making progress in banning FGM, these legislations have met with resistance from some communities, thus hindering progress. It is imperative that immediate and coordinated international, national, and local endeavors are undertaken to actively advocate for the cessation of FGM. 


Haruna Kashiwase

Consultant, Development Data Group, World Bank

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