This week, UNICEF issued a report on female genital mutilation (FGM). It stresses the importance of continuous data gathering to inform policymakers and programmes as a vital part of all efforts to eliminate FGM. German NGO Wadi and Hivos welcome the amount of exposure this report has received and fully endorse the need, amongst others, for further research on the prevalence of FGM, particularly in the Middle East. This is all the more pressing in the light of a discrepancy between the findings of UNICEF and Wadi.
In Kirkuk for example, Wadi and its partner Pana documented in 2012 that FGM exists in areas outside Kurdish communities of Iraq. Surveying 1212 women in Kirkuk, field workers obtained the first empirical proof that women in the Arab and Turkmen communities of Kirkuk practiced FGM, proving that this is an issue the entire nation needs to confront. 38.2 percent of interviewees reported they have been mutilated. 118 of these victims were Arabs. A further 56 were Turkmen.
UNICEF stated that ‘data from Iraq show that FGM is only practised in a few northern regions, including Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, where the majority of girls and women have undergone the procedure’, concluding that ‘it is practically non-existent in other areas of the country.’ This observation stands in contrast with findings in Kirkuk from Hivos partners Wadi and Pana.
“Studies by Wadi as well as interviews with medical professionals indicate that the practice is much more prevalent than previously thought, including in non-Kurdish areas”, says Wadi director Thomas von der Osten-Sacken.
The UNICEF surveys in 29 countries show that girls are less likely to be cut than they were some 30 years ago. On the other hand, they show that the practice remains almost universal in Sudan and Egypt. “This underlines the fact that we should remain very concerned and continue to step up efforts to eradicate FGM”, says Von der Osten-Sacken.