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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Female Genital Mutilation Still High in Africa, But Declining

UNICEF just released a new report on female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C). The New York Times spun the story in a positive light, emphasizing that the practice has witnessed a decline:
Teenage girls are now less likely to have been cut than older women in more than half of the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated, according to the assessment by the United Nations Children’s Fund. In Egypt, for example, where more women have been cut than in any other nation, survey data showed that 81 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds had undergone the practice, compared with 96 percent of women in their late 40s.
By contrast, BBC News emphasized the fact that the level remains high, despite the observed decline:
More than 30 million girls are at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) over the next decade, a study by Unicef has found.
It said more than 125 million girls and women alive today had undergone a procedure now opposed by the majority in countries where it was practised.
Ritual cutting of girls' genitals is practised by some African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities in the belief it protects a woman's virginity.
Unicef wants action to end FGM.
Most striking to me was the map of the countries in which FGM/C is prevalent. You must take a look at this either on the UNICEF site or the BBC site (The New York Times cuts the map off and so it is not so dramatic). If there was ever a case to be made for spatial demography, this would be it. Despite different languages, different ethnic groups, and different religions (albeit with Islam predominating), there is a nearly contiguous string of countries spreading down from Egypt and then spreading east and west across the Sahel. This is a regional cultural issue which, one can hope, will make it is easier for the spread of resistance to the practice to spread pretty quickly in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly - FGM is a practice that is still all-too-common in some rural villages in Kenya. Some tribes practice it, others don't. At the local level, i've been trying to discourage this "barbaric relic" of the past for a long time in the Rift Valley ... but it's quite difficult to overthrow the old customs. Especially because the ritual of teenage circumcision (boys and girls) accompanies to important transition to adult status in the tribe.

    The problem is magnified when rural girls who have experienced FGM move to the large cities. They often find that their old boyfriends or husbands run away - in search of women who are more "desirable". It creates a lot of broken relationships and heartache.

    Your argument about "spatial relationships" also seems a lot clearer to me. It's really fascinating actually, that this band of cultural behavior exists across an east-west swath of Africa.

    DrP, Los Angeles