Female genital mutilation (FGM), partial or total removal of external genitalia, continues to be practiced illegally throughout Africa. FGM is practiced as a rite of passage in 28 African countries. Approximately 3 million young women annually are forced to undergo FGM as an initiation into womanhood. Liberian government health worker Mary Mah told IRIN that “over 20 percent of the initiates die from excessive bleeding after their clitoris has been removed.”
A Senegalese village elder told IRIN that while many African countries have banned FGM, “they haven’t really abandoned the practice. The same women who are publicly declaring it has been abandoned are continuing to cut.”
In Burkina Faso, many have begun to cut babies instead of older girls to reduce the risk of getting caught. Between 1998 and 2003, the number of victims under 5 years old in Burkina Faso increased from 20 percent to 31 percent.