Female genital cutting is a harmful practice involving full or partial removal of a girl’s external genitals. It serves no medical purpose and has many harmful consequences.
At what age does FGC happen?
The age at which a girl is cut depends on a specific cultural context. In some communities a girl may be cut during infancy, for example, in areas of Ethiopia, a girl may be just nine days old. In others, it may be later as a teenager. However, on average, girls are cut between the ages of five and eight. A global trend is that girls are being cut at a younger age.
In some communities, girls undergo FGC in their early teenage years and the procedure acts as a rite of passage into womanhood. In other cultures, FGC is precursor to child marriage. There are also instances of women of any age choosing to undergo FGC.
How many girls and women are affected?
Each year, 3 million girls are at risk of being cut in 28 known African practising countries. However, this figure under-estimates the real number of girls affected, because other countries (e.g. Indonesia) are not included.
The UN estimates that worldwide between 100-140 million women are currently living with the consequences of FGC. However, it is also hard to give accurate figures, because data gathering outside of Africa tends not to include FGC.
It can be hard to collect information from women and girls about their experiences, because of the taboo within the community to speak about FGC. As something that happens primarily to children, there is also an issue about accuracy of reporting on their behalf.