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« Female genital mutilation »

Modified on 2013/05/16 15:27 by Haoyi Chen Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Violence against women
From gender issues to statistics on female genital mutilation: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Is FGM practiced in the country? Is there evidence for the decline of FGM prevalence?



What groups of women are more likely to have undergone FGM?
Number of women who have undergone FGM by age or within two cohorts (mothers and daughters). Alternatively, statistics for two points in time can be used.

Number of women who have undergone FGM by age, ethnicity, religion, educational attainment of the mother, urban/rural areas, geographic areas
Household surveys such as DHS and MICS

  • + Gender issues
    • Girls and women face particular health risks due to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM involves partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons. The procedure is generally carried out on girls between the ages of 4 and 14; it is also done to infants, women who are about to be married, and, sometimes, to women who are pregnant with their first child or have just given birth. FGM is mostly practiced in African countries and some countries in the Middle East. The proportion of women who have undergone FGM varies greatly across countries where FGM is practiced, from levels smaller than one per cent to almost universal coverage of women of reproductive age. Although available data are incomplete, it appears that there have been small decreases in the extent of FGM in recent years. Data also indicate a decline in the average age at which FGM is carried out and a growing tendency for FGM to be carried out by health professionals. (UNICEF, 2005)

      FGM is rooted in cultural factors therefore the extent of practice may vary according to various characteristics such as rural/urban areas, geographic areas, ethnic or religious groups, and education. Within a country, ethnicity appears to have the strongest influence over FGM. Other factors are also important. FGM levels are lower in the younger groups of women, although not in the countries with highest FGM prevalence. Women with higher education are generally less likely to have their daughters circumcised, though not in all countries (UNICEF, 2005). Women living in urban areas tend to have lower prevalence of FGM compared to their rural counterparts.

  • + Data needed
    • Number of women who have undergone FGM by current age, age at FGM, type of FGM and type of practitioner who did the cutting.

      Number of women with at least one daughter who has undergone FGM by current age of the daughter most recently circumcised, age of daughter at FGM, type of FGM and type of practitioner who did the cutting.

      Other statistics on perceptions, reasons and attitudes toward FGM (such as support, benefits, drawbacks, health consequences, and rationale for doing FGM) may be collected.

      Additional breakdowns commonly used for statistics on genital mutilation are urban/rural areas, geographic areas, ethnicity, religion, educational attainment of the mother and wealth.


  • + Sources of data
    • Household surveys such as DHS and MICS usually collect data on FGM.


  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • FGM may be underreported in countries with legislation against FGM. In such cases it is important that questions referring directly to FGM are avoided, if possible. Alternative questions may be used, specific to each country. For example, in MICS carried out in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the questions designed to measure FGM referred to “initiation in women-only societies”.

      Age and other information related to FGM may be misreported. For example, recall errors are more frequent in cases where FGM occurred during early childhood. Other errors may be frequent in contexts where FGM involves multiple procedures taking place in different stages of life.


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