New report finds FGM/C much more widespread across the Middle East than widely acknowledged

LONDON, March 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C) is happening in far more countries than widely acknowledged, and the number of affected women and girls is being woefully underestimated, finds a new report.

FGM/C in the Middle East

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

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

FGM/C is present in at least 92 countries around the world

Our research has 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 FGM/C is happening in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

In the Middle East, it includes Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Israel, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and United Arab Emirates.

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.

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.

FGM/C is global but so is the movement to end it

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

A dearth of accurate data is enabling governments to ignore the issue. Better statistics can help put pressure on authorities to act, and provide a baseline from which to measure the scale and effectiveness of interventions.

Dr. Ghada Khan, Network Coordinator of US End FGM/C Network said: “The global relevance of FGM/C, as highlighted in the report’s findings, 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’ve 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, requiring increased investment from the international community.

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.

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.”

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 political commitments made by governments to end FGM are finally fulfilled.”

Media Contact: Sr. Media Manager Tara Carey, Tcarey@equalitynow.org +44 (0)7971556340

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