By Joe Dyke
The UN estimates that over 140 million girls and women across the world have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), a term that covers a ranges of procedures, from trimming the clitoral hood, to removing almost the entire genitalia and partially sealing the vaginal opening.
To mark International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, IRIN has mapped out prevalence rates across Africa and the Middle East. The countries shown are not the only ones were FGM takes place, just those where reliable studies have been conducted. Click on the countries to reveal rates of FGM in women aged 15-49 and whether the country has outlawed the practice.
All data from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
There has been little change in the frequency of FGM in the past decade, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and it seems that tougher laws will not necessarily solve the problem. Twenty-two of the 29 countries shown have some kind of law prohibiting FGM: Guinea, where prevalence is around 95 percent, banned it some 20 years ago. In fact the WHO has even warned that making it illegal could lead to parents making their daughters go under the knife younger.
Fanta Jatta Sowe, specialist on women's rights for ActionAid in Gambia - one of the countries where FGM is still legal - said a law would only help if people accepted it. “We need to educate people first for them to understand that FGM is not beneficial… but attitudes are changing, especially among the young.”
* The lowest indices on the map was changed from 0-24 to 1-24 after publication