Sexual and reproductive health

Female genital mutilation (FGM)

Prevalence of FGM

It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. Furthermore, there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years old (see Figure 1).

Female genital mutilation has been documented in 30 countries, mainly in Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Asia. Some forms of female genital mutilation have also been reported in other countries, including among certain ethnic groups in South America. Moreover, growing migration has increased the number of girls and women living outside their country of origin who have undergone female genital mutilation or who may be at risk of being subjected to the practice in Europe, Australia and North America.

The prevalence of female genital mutilation has been estimated from large-scale, national surveys asking women aged 15–49 years if they have themselves or their daughters have been cut. Considerable variations have been found between the countries, with prevalence rates over 80% in eight countries. Moreover, the prevalence varies among regions within countries, with ethnicity being the most influential factor.

The type of procedure performed also varies, mainly with ethnicity. Current estimates (from surveys of women older than 15 years old) indicate that around 90% of female genital mutilation cases include either Types I (mainly clitoridectomy), II (excision) or IV (“nicking” without flesh removed), and about 10% (over 8 million women) are Type III (infibulation). Infibulation, which is the most severe form of FGM, is mostly practiced in the north-eastern region of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan. In West-Africa (Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, etc.), the tendency is to remove flesh (clitoridectomy and/or excision) without sewing the labia minora and/or majora together.

  • United Nations Children’s Fund, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A global concern, UNICEF, New York, 2016.
  • United Nations Children’s Fund, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, UNICEF, New York, 2013.

Figure 1 – Percentage distribution of ages at which girls have undergone FGM (as reported by their mothers)

Source: UNICEF, 2013

Figure 2 - Percentage of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years who have undergone FGM, by country


Source : UNICEF, 2013