Kenya to Somalia, feminine genital mutilation lives on in these international locations though it violates human rights

Today, February 6th marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this practice is common in around 30 countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East. It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women living in these countries today have experienced some form of genital mutilation, and an estimated 3 million are at risk of undergoing it.

This inhumane cultural practice is based on the belief that a woman’s virginity must be preserved in order to make her “marriageable”. There is a misconception in some cultures that the practice is to maintain hygiene. Most girls under the age of 15 suffer from genital mutilation.

Medically speaking, there are no such benefits to cutting or removing a woman’s external genitalia. FGM often involves the removal or cutting of the labia and clitoris and the World Health Organization considers it a human rights violation that has profound psychological implications for victims.

Here are the statistics of some of the countries that still practice it:

1. Gambia: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that 78.3% of Gambian girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone FGM. Of these, 55% were younger than four years at the time of the mutilation; 28% were between five and nine years old; and 7% were between 10 and 14 years old.

2. Somalia: The UN reports that 98% of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 in Somalia have experienced various forms of female genital mutilation.

3. Kenya: FGM has been illegal in Kenya since 2011, but the practice continues. According to reports, 21% of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced the cut.

4. Sierra Leone: The West African nation of Sierra Leone has one of the highest FGM rates in Africa and the world. UNICEF estimates that 90% of women in Sierra Leone have been exposed to FGM.

5. Burkina Faso: According to the WHO, FGM was widespread among around 72.5% of women in Burkina Faso in 2006. As of 2018, the latest UNICEF data from 2010 confirms that only 13% of girls ages 0-14 had been exposed to FGM, while 76% of women ages 15-49 had. The prevalence varies according to religion in Burkina Faso. FGM is common in 82% of Muslim women, 73% of traditional religions, 66% of Catholics and 60% of Protestants.

While FGM is concentrated in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, it is also practiced in some countries in Asia and Latin America, as well as among immigrants in Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand.

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