An estimated 70 million girls and women in 27 African and Middle Eastern countries have been circumcised. The age-old tradition, also known as female genital mutilation, is primarily performed on girls ages 4 to 14, though in some countries it is done on infants. It involves removing a girl’s clitoris and sometimes other external genitalia.
FGM is done out of beliefs that it controls a women’s sexuality, enhances fertility, initiates into womanhood or is required by religion, although both Muslim and Christian leaders have spoken out against it.
FGM is also performed for hygienic and aesthetic reasons in some places where genitalia are believed to be dirty.
Countries where more than 50 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 49 are circumcised: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan (north).
Countries where 10 percent to 50 percent of females aged 15 to 49 are circumcised: Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Yemen.
Source: International Herald Tribune – 4 August 2008