Female genital mutilation is a practice that involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Internationally recognized as a human rights violation, it is estimated that some 200 million girls and women globally have undergone some form of female genital mutilation. Although the practice is declining in the majority of countries where it is prevalent, most of these are also experiencing a high rate of population growth – meaning that the number of girls who undergo female genital mutilation will continue to grow if the practice continues at current levels.
UNFPA estimates 68 million girls are at risk of being mutilated between 2015 and 2030. A more recent study estimates an additional two million girls to be at risk of this harmful practice due to COVID-19. Protecting girls will take a significant push to accelerate the elimination of this harmful, often deadly, practice.
Coordinated and systematic efforts are needed to end female genital mutilation, engaging whole communities and focussing on human rights and gender equality. The sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who are subjected to the practice and its consequences must be urgently addressed.
UNFPA, together with UNICEF, leads the Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, the largest global programme to accelerate the elimination of this harmful practice. The programme currently focuses on 17 countries as well as supporting regional and global initiatives.