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More than 200 Million Girls Go through Genital Mutilation, UNICEF Reports

Update Date: Feb 05, 2016 09:37 AM EST

Women go through genital mutilation more often than previously believed, a new UNICEF report found.

According to the numbers, at least 200 million women from more than 30 countries have experienced female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM). The UNICEF team found that these numbers are way higher than previous estimates. The researchers also found the practice to be more common than previously believed.

"Female genital mutilation differs across regions and cultures, with some forms involving life-threatening health risks," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta reported by Reuters. "In every case FGM violates the rights of girls and women. We must all accelerate efforts - governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents and families - to eliminate the practice."

The researchers found the practice was particularly common in Indonesia, where 60 million women and girls have had the procedure done, based on a national survey. Nearly 50 percent of the group was under the age of 11 when they had FGM. FGM was also very common in Egypt and Ethiopia.

The report added that in Guinea, Somalia and Djibouti, about 90 percent of the FGM cases occurred in girls between the ages of 15 and 49.

"We knew the practice existed but we didn't have a sense of the scope," said Claudia Cappa, a UNICEF statistics specialist, said reported by the New York Times.

She added to TIME, "What is relevant to highlight is we have always thought the practice originated in Africa and remained concentrated in many parts of the Middle East, but now with new evidence...the focus becomes wider."

The researchers found that the rate of FGM has been declining in certain age groups. Overall, the rate calculated in girls between 15 and 19 fell from 51 percent in 1985 to 37 percent. In terms of countries, the team found that in Egypt, the rate of FGM in girls between the ages of 15 and 19 fell from 97 percent to 70 percent. In Burkina Faso, the rate of FGM in this age group fell from 89 percent to 58 percent and in Liberia, the rate fell from 72 percent to 31 percent.

UNICEF concluded, "Current progress is insufficient to keep up with increasing population growth. ... If current trends continue the number of girls and women subjected to FGM will increase significantly over the next 15 years."

The report stressed the importance of finding ways of eliminating this practice.

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