Fewer girls are subjected to the life-threatening practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) according to new data from the United Nations, released on 6 February, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
According to a UN statement issued in Monrovia Monday, the data show that FGM/C is becoming less prevalent overall and the younger generation is less vulnerable to the practice.
In the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where the practice of FGM/C is concentrated, on average, 36 per cent of girls aged 15-19 have been cut compared to an estimated 53 per cent of women aged 45-49.
The statement said the decline is particularly sharp in some countries: in Kenya, for example, women aged 45-49 are three times more likely to have been cut than girls aged 15-19.
"This progress shows it is possible to end FGM/C" said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "FGM/C is not only deeply wrong; we can and must end it to help millions of girls and women lead healthier lives."
These recent estimates produced by UNICEF show that at least 120 million girls and women have experienced FGM/C in these 29 countries. Given present trends, as many as 30 million girls under the age of 15 may still be at risk.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF Joint Program on FGM/C is currently making progress in preventing these girls and future generations from being exposed to FGM/C.
The new estimates follow the unanimous adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution in December 2012, calling on Member States to intensify efforts towards the complete elimination of FGM/C.
Since 2008, when the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Program on FGM/C was established, nearly 10,000 communities in 15 countries, representing about 8 million people, have renounced the practice. Last year, a total of 1,775 communities across Africa publicly declared their commitment to end FGM/C.
Even in high-prevalence countries, attitudes towards the practice are changing. In Egypt, for example, where around 90 per cent of girls and women have been cut, the percentage of those aged 15-49 who have been married, and who think that FGM/C should stop, doubled from 13 per cent to 28 per cent between 1995 and 2008.