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Report Shows Rates of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting Decline, But 63M Women Still at Risk of Practice Over Next 40 Years

UNICEF Report Finds Decline in Rates of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, But 63M Women Still at Risk of Practice Over Next 40 Years

July 25, 2014 — The rate of women undergoing genital mutilation/cutting has declined in the past 30 years in many of the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated, but the total number of women undergoing the procedure has increased because of population growth, according to a UNICEF report, NPR's "goats and soda" reports.

The report -- presented at London's first "Girl Summit" this week -- found that more than 130 million women in those 29 countries have undergone some form of FGM/C and that another 63 million are at risk of undergoing the practice by 2050.

Report 'Exciting and Worrying'

Researchers found a significant decline in rates of women undergoing FGM/C in some countries. For example, in Kenya, nearly 50% of girls ages 15 to 19 underwent FGM/C in 1980, compared with less than 20% in 2010 (Poon, "goats and soda," NPR, 7/24). According to the report, the prevalence of women undergoing FGM in the past 30 years has also dropped by about two-thirds in Tanzania and by up to 50% in the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria (UNICEF release, 7/22).

However, the report found that progress against FGM/C is distributed unevenly among the 29 nations. While the rate of women undergoing FGM/C in Somalia has declined, it is still more than 90% ("goats and soda," NPR, 7/24). Other countries with FGM/C rates near or above 50% include Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Mali, according to the report ("goats and soda" chart, NPR, 7/24).

Susan Bissell, chief of child protection at UNICEF, called the report "exciting and worrying," adding that "population growth will far surpass the gain we've been seeing if we don't step it up." She noted that more women have begun speaking out against FGM/C, saying, "Ten years ago, it was like a handful of feminist organizations talking. But now everybody's talking, and when you have public discourse, things change" ("goats and soda," NPR, 7/24).