New data shows that fewer girls are being subjected to female genital mutilation, a centuries-old practice stemming from the belief that circumcising girls controls women’s sexuality and enhances fertility, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
The UN children’s agency, Unicef, and the UN Population Fund released the new data to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
In the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated, the UN said an average of 36 per cent of girls aged 15-19 have been cut, compared to an estimated 53 per cent of women aged 45-49.
In Kenya, for example, women aged 45-49 are three times more likely to have been cut than girls aged 15-19, the UN said.
The new estimates, produced by Unicef, show that at least 120 million girls and women have experienced female genital mutilation in the 29 countries.
Given present trends, the UN said, as many as 30 million girls under the age of 15 may still be at risk.
But Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said the progress shows it is possible to end the practice, which he called “deeply wrong” and a threat to health.
In December, the UN General Assembly unanimously approved a non-binding resolution calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation.