Company. Genital mutilation, a scourge that is struggling to recede around the world

Company.  Genital mutilation, a scourge that is struggling to recede around the world

144 million mutilated girls in Africa, 80 million in Asia and six million in the Middle East: more than 230 million women today live with a form of genital mutilation, alert Unicef ​​in a report published Thursday, on the eve of International Women’s Rights Day, which is based on around thirty countries where these practices are common. Not to mention the four million additional victims in other regions of the world where certain communities still practice excision (total or partial removal of the clitoris and labia minora) or infibulation (excision plus suture of the vaginal opening to narrow it ).

30 million additional girls and women affected

“The total number of victims is up 15% compared to data published 8 years ago, which means that 30 million additional girls and women are affected by this problem,” deplores Unicef, which points to progress too “slow” compared to the demographic growth of the countries affected by these practices.

Sharp decline in Burkina Faso

In some countries, however, prevention and calls for political decision-makers to combat gender inequalities, and therefore genital mutilation, have borne fruit.

In Sierra Leone, the proportion of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 having undergone genital mutilation has fallen from 95% to 61% over the last 30 years. In Ethiopia, it fell from 77% to 47%. Almost a victory in the Maldives, where it went from 38% to only 1% today.

The largest decline was observed in Burkina Faso, where 32% of adolescents currently live with genital mutilation, compared to 83% 30 years ago. At issue: the commitment of the authorities, but also the increase in trials against excisers over the last ten years. A decline which, to a lesser extent, also concerns cases of excision among children aged 0 to 14, falling from 13% in 2010 to 9% in 2021.

Progress hampered by conflicts and demographic growth

On the other hand, some countries saw almost no decline in 30 years, points out UNICEF. This is the case of Mali, Gambia and Senegal. The worst situation is observed in Somalia, where 99% of adolescent girls still live with genital mutilation.

UNICEF thus notes that it is complicated, in countries affected by conflicts and/or strong demographic growth, to reverse these practices. In some countries, they are also being performed earlier and earlier, in children as young as five years old, making reporting and interventions more complicated.

Mobilization is necessary, assures the report, given the serious physical and psychological consequences of genital mutilation among young girls and women, which can be fatal. They “have harmful effects on girls’ bodies, darken their futures and endanger their lives,” says Catherine Russell, Director General of Unicef.

According to the authors’ calculations, we would have to go 27 times faster to eradicate this type of mutilation by 2030, an objective stated by the United Nations, but which seems to be consistent with current prevention policies in the countries concerned. . In places, there is even a risk of backtracking: in Gambia, parliament began on Monday studying a bill that would lift the ban on female genital mutilation, which has been prohibited since 2015.

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