A majority of people in most countries where female genital mutilation is concentrated oppose the harmful practice, according to a new UNICEF report issued today.
Despite that opposition, more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM and 30 million girls are still at risk of being cut in the next decade, a terrible violation of their human rights and dignity, not to mention an extreme health risk.
UNICEF's report is the most comprehensive data analysis of this issue to date.
The report finds that not only are most girls and women against the practice, but that a significant number of men and boys also oppose FGM/C. In three countries, Chad, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, more men than women want the practice to end.
But despite falling support, millions of girls remain in considerable danger.
"FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination," said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. "What is clear from this report is that legislation alone is not enough. The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned."
Surveys in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM persists show that girls are less likely to be cut than they were some 30 years ago, and that support for the practice is in decline, even in countries where it remains almost universal, such as Egypt and Sudan.
The report recommends opening up the practice to greater public scrutiny, and points to the role education can play in bringing further social change.