Yesterday UNICEF released a new report on female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) showing that, while millions of girls are still at risk, the dangerous centuries-old tradition is now on a slow but steady decline in key areas around the world.
In some sense this isn’t hard news; we reported last February that FGM/C was on the decline in Africa, where over 8,000 communities have renounced the practice. But to see this trend picking up worldwide is heartening.
On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel that the real “news” of the report is that, despite a sharp decline in FGM/C in numerous countries, in 2013 there are still so many countries where the FGM/C prevalance rate is over 90%. The most recent numbers show that more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM/C and 30 million girls are still at risk of being cut in the next decade.
While I appreciate the thoughtful, passionate and brilliant voices of people from so many different cultural backgrounds on this issue, and respect the rights of different cultures, I feel that culture is no excuse for the practice, which often causes severe pain and has both immediate and long-term negative health consequences.
Maybe that’s why I appreciated most of all the report’s in-depth look at cultural attitudes towards the practice, which found that a majority of people in most countries where FGM/C is concentrated oppose it.