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Most People Living In Countries Where FGM Is Common Are Against It

The majority of people living in countries where female genital mutilation (FGM) is prevalent want it to end, according to new statistics released by UNICEF.

The global children's charity found that in countries where data is available, 67% of girls and women and 63% of boys and men are against the continuation of this brutal practice.

However, UNICEF's Francesca Moneti points out that in many communities, there may be a discrepancy between people's actual views on FGM and what they are prepared to say about the issue in front of their peers.

"Although female genital mutilation is associated with gender discrimination, our findings show that the majority of boys and men are actually against it," Moneti says. "Unfortunately, individuals’ desire to end female genital mutilation is often hidden, and many women and men still believe the practice is needed in order for them to be accepted in their communities."

Shockingly, UNICEF estimates that at least 200 million girls and women living today in 30 countries worldwide have been subjected to FGM. As well as causing numbness during sexual activity, the practice can lead to long-term health complications including the spread of HIV, tetanus and Hepatitis B and C, painful menstruation and urination, and problems during pregnancy and childbirth due to vaginal walls being sewn too narrowly.

Gambia and Nigeria both made FGM illegal last year and Moneti argues that UNICEF's new data can be used in the drive to have it criminalised elsewhere.

"When individuals become aware that others do not support the practice it becomes easier for them to stop FGM," Moneti says on UNICEF's website. "More work is needed with young people, men and women, entire communities and religious and political leaders, to highlight these findings, and the harmful effects of FGM, to further accelerate the movement to end the practice.”