Female Genital Mutilation as a Push Factor for Migration

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a traditional harmful practice that involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons (WHO).

It is estimated that, in the countries where the practice is concentrated, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation. Additionally, every year around 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation. The majority of these girls are cut before they turn 15 years old.  

FGM has no health benefits, only risks. It can easily lead to immediate health dangers, as well as long-term complications to the affected women’s physical, mental, and sexual health and well-being.   

It is a violation of their rights

The practice is recognized internationally as a violation of human rights of girls and women and as an extreme form of gender discrimination, which reflects the deep-rooted inequality that women face daily. As it is practiced on young girls without consent, it is also a violation of the rights of children. Further, FGM violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

A Global Concern 

While the exact number of girls and women worldwide who have undergone female genital mutilation remains unknown, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice, according to data from the 30 countries where population level data exist. The practice is mainly concentrated in western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, as well as in some countries in the Middle East and Asia.

The prevalence of female genital mutilation in certain regions can serve as a push factor for migration among women and families. In regions where FGM is prevalent, individuals may seek to escape the risk of undergoing this harmful practice, prompting them to migrate to areas where laws and societal norms offer greater protection and support against FGM.

With growing migration, there has been an increase in the number of girls and women in Europe, Australia and North America who have either undergone female genital mutilation or who may be at risk of being subjected to the practice. FGM is therefore a global concern.

Progress in abandoning the practice

As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has set a target to abandon the practice of female genital mutilation by the year 2030.

But while there has been an overall decline in the prevalence of FGM over the last three decades, not all countries have made progress, and the pace of decline has been uneven. Current progress is insufficient to keep up with increasing population growth. If trends continue as they are currently, the number of girls and women undergoing FGM will rise significantly in the next 15 years. This must be prevented.

We must act

Beyond legal frameworks and awareness campaigns, education plays a pivotal role. Investing in comprehensive educational programs that challenge cultural norms and empower communities with accurate information is crucial. Fostering partnerships between governments, NGOs, and grassroots organizations can amplify the impact of anti-FGM initiatives. As part of global efforts, allocating resources for healthcare, counselling, and rehabilitation services for survivors is imperative. By addressing the socio-cultural roots of FGM and providing holistic support, we can break the cycle of this harmful practice.

Stand together against injustice and violence

Female genital mutilation remains a critical violation of human rights, impacting millions of girls and women globally. While progress has been made, the fight against FGM requires ongoing commitment. As we approach the 2030 deadline set by the Sustainable Development Goals, it is essential for individuals, communities, and nations to unite in raising awareness, implementing preventive measures, and supporting survivors. We must advocate for change and contribute to a world where every girl and woman is free from the threat of female genital mutilation.