News / Health

UNICEF Reports Progress in Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation

Former circumciser Mariam Coulibaly displays the tools of her trade, a knife handed down to her by her mother and herbs to heal the wounds, at her home in Salemata, southeastern Senegal (2003 file photo)
Former circumciser Mariam Coulibaly displays the tools of her trade, a knife handed down to her by her mother and herbs to heal the wounds, at her home in Salemata, southeastern Senegal (2003 file photo)

A new U.N. Children's Fund study finds female genital mutilation remains widespread, but says attitudes are changing.

The UNICEF study says data from five African countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal and Sudan - shows progress is being made in eliminating female genital mutilation, also known as cutting.  This harmful practice is widely practiced throughout Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, but is performed only among certain population groups in Kenya and Senegal.

The  study shows a significant change in attitude among women between the ages of 15 and 49.  For example, the study says 60 percent of women in Ethiopia approved of Female Genital Mutilation in 2000.  This figure declined by half five years later.  

Significant drops in approval rates also are found in Egypt and Sudan.  In Kenya and Senegal there is widespread disapproval of the practice.

But UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says families are reluctant to abandon a practice they believe to be of benefit to their daughters.  

"The main reason that parents have their daughters cut or mutilated is really to provide them with economic and social security in a sense," Mercado said. "It is to make sure that their daughters are accepted by society, that they can get married and have a chance of a normal life.  In many of these cultures and traditions, not being 'cutted' is sanctioned."  

Global estimates on how many girls and women have been subjected to female genital mutilation range from 70 million - 140 million.  In Africa, an estimated three million girls and women are at risk every year.

The practice also is found in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and to a lesser extent within some immigrant communities in Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

Mercado says earlier attempts to end female genital mutilation had limited impact because communities saw them as attacks against their traditions. According to Mercado, successful programs to end this practice must involve respected community members, including religious and local leaders.  

She says the study shows communities where female genital mutilation is practiced are motivated by the desire to protect girls and make them eligible for marriage.

"Interestingly, this motivating factor of parents doing what is best for their daughters may also spur the decision to stop the practice, once social norms have evolved and social expectations have changed," Mercado noted. "Of course, religion, tradition and culture are also cited by families as reasons for cutting their daughters.  And many communities, for example, believe that mutilation or cutting is mandated by religious doctrine, despite the fact that no major religion requires it."

The study finds laws against Female Genital Mutilation can be counterproductive in that they often drive the practice underground.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More