Ritual cutting study: UNICEF Female Genital Mutilation

Published: February 6, 2016

Ritual cutting study: UNICEF Female Genital Mutilation, Female genital cutting has always been seen as an ancient ritual practiced in Africa and to a lesser extent in the Middle East, but a new global assessment documents for the first time that it is widespread in one of the most populous countries in Asia: Indonesia, where almost half the women are estimated to have undergone it.

There has long been anecdotal evidence of the practice there, but the United Nations Children’s Fund estimated Thursday that 60 million women and girls there have been cut based on national survey data collected by the Indonesian government. The addition of Indonesia is largely responsible for raising the global tally of women and girls who have undergone the practice to 200 million from 130 million, and the number of countries where it is concentrated to 30 from 29.

Experts in Indonesia said the practice there had largely involved a less drastic version of cutting, usually a surface scratch or nick, as compared with more severe disfiguring. The Indonesian government’s survey asked parents if their young daughters had undergone circumcision. Ms. Cappa said it was possible that there were some more severe cases in Indonesia, but she said the official Indonesian government definition of female circumcision was “an act of scratching the skin that covers the front of clitoris without injuring the clitoris.”

The Indonesian data is part of Unicef’s latest global update on female genital cutting, which shows that over all the practice is declining worldwide. For example, the percentage of girls ages 15 to 19 who have been cut has declined from 51 percent in 1985 to 37 percent today in the countries where the practice is concentrated.

Some countries have shown rapid and significant declines. In Egypt, where 97 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds were circumcised 30 years ago, the rate is now 70 percent. Burkina Faso has dropped from 89 percent to 58 percent, and Liberia from 72 percent to 31 percent.


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