What Is FGM?
UNICEF is working to eliminate female genital mutilation, a cruel and unnecessary practice.
An internationally condemned human rights violation, female genital mutilation (FGM) harms girls' bodies and their futures. More than 200 million girls and women are living with the pain and trauma caused by this inhumane practice, a form of ritualized gender-based violence. Most are harmed before their 15th birthday.
FGM is defined as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to female genitals for non-medical reasons. It is an excruciatingly painful procedure that involves life-threatening health risks and long-term physical and psychological complications.
Learn the facts about female genital mutilation
FGM violates the human rights of girls and women
Rooted in gender inequality and power imbalances, FGM has been performed on infants, girls and women in at least 31 countries across three continents; more than half of those who have been subjected live in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Diaspora communities sometimes bring the custom with them when they migrate.
An alarming trend is the growing medicalization of the practice. Around one in four girls and women who have been harmed — 52 million — were subjected to FGM at the hands of health professionals, despite the fact that there are no health benefits. The proportion is twice as high among adolescents.
UNICEF-trained social workers stand up for vulnerable girls who are in danger of being subjected to FGM. UNICEF also provides medical care for girls who have been harmed and traumatized by FGM.
UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund are working to end FGM
UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are working together to put a stop to FGM once and for all. Progress has been made: girls today are one-third less likely to be subjected to FGM compared to three decades ago. However, progress must be at least 10 times faster in order to meet the global target of eliminating FGM by 2030.
Changing gender and social norms that encourage FGM is critical. UNICEF and UNFPA's joint program engages families, communities, institutions and policy makers to act as agents of social change to promote the elimination of FGM.
At UNICEF-supported community awareness sessions, women share their experiences and agree to stand up against cultural pressure to subject their daughters to the practice. Youth advocates like 15-year-old Fatima in Sudan's South Kordofan State, whose family condemns FGM, explain the dangers to their classmates and members of their community. "I believe FGM should stop," said Fatima. "Girls in my school that have been subjected to FGM have very painful periods. It is bad."
Men and boys play an important role in awareness raising too, along with enabling safe environments for girls and women, and — most importantly — detecting, reporting and preventing FGM cases. In the past five years, the UNICEF-UNFPA joint program has supported more than 3,000 initiatives where men and boys actively advocate to bring an end to the practice. Efforts to change the narrative are making an impact: significant opposition to FGM among boys and men is evident in countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea and Sudan.
It's time to break the cycle of violence and eliminate female genital mutilation. Please donate today.