At least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries have undergone female genital mutilation, with 70 million more woman affected by the procedure than previously thought in 2014, according to a statistical analysis by UNICEF.
UNICEF’s analysis, which it released last week before the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, showed that people from 30 countries participate in the practice, and half of the affected women and girls worldwide live in three countries: Egypt, Ethopia and Indonesia, where the practice was banned in 2006 but remains commonplace.
On Saturday, UNICEF pledged to eliminate the practice by 2023.
“Female genital mutilation differs across regions and cultures, with some forms involving life-threatening health risks,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta said in a statement last week. “In every case [the practice] violates the rights of girls and women. We must all accelerate efforts — governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents and families — to eliminate the practice.”
UNICEF said momentum to address female genital mutilation is growing. Prevalence rates in several countries, including Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Kenya, have declined over the last 30 years. Five countries have passed legislation to criminalize the practice and more that 2,000 communities worldwide have publicly declared they will abandon the practice.
But if the current overall trend continues, UNICEF predicts the practice will become increasingly prevalent over the next 15 years.
On Saturday, executive directors of the UNFPA and UNICEF made statements calling for data collection improvement, communication with medical communities to abandon the practice, and a need to support women and girls who have undergone the practice.