Female Genital Cutting: Current Status and Trends

(February 2007) Although many governments have passed laws against female genital cutting, the practice is still widespread in many countries. More than seven in 10 women have undergone the procedure in Mauritania, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Northern Sudan, Eritrea, Mali, Egypt, and Guinea. In some of the countries where the practice is extremely common—Eritrea and Sudan, for example—a substantial proportion of women are subjected to infibulation, the most extreme form of cutting. In other countries, fewer than half of women undergo the procedure and the practice is confined to only some regions.

In the majority of countries where two surveys have been conducted, prevalence has decreased somewhat. In Egypt, the practice remains almost universal, despite the government’s pledge during the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which was held in Cairo, to abolish female genital cutting.

In most countries, traditional practitioners perform the procedure. In some countries, however, medical personnel such as doctors, nurses, and midwives also perform genital cutting procedures. The practice of the “medicalization” of FGC appears to be increasing in at least two countries where data is available: In Egypt, where medical personnel performed 75 percent of these procedures in 2005, compared with 61 percent in 2000 and 55 percent in 1995; and in Nigeria, where the practice increased from 13 percent in 1999 to 27 percent in 2003.

These data are drawn from: P. Stanley Yoder, Noureddine Abderrahim, and Arlinda Zhuzhuni, Female Genital Cutting in Demograhpic and Health Surveys: A Critical and Comparative Inquiry (Calverton, MD: ORC Macro, 2004); and from other recent DHS estimates.