Background Guinea has a high prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) (95%) and it is a major concern affecting the health and the welfare of women and girls. Population-based surveys suggest that health care providers are implicated in carrying out the practice (medicalization). To understand the attitudes of health care providers related to FGM and its medicalization as well as the potential role of the health sector in addressing this practice, a study was conducted in Guinea to inform the development of an intervention for the health sector to prevent and respond to this harmful practice.
Methodology Formative research was conducted using a mixed-methods approach, including qualitative in-depth interviews with health care providers and other key informants as well as questionnaires with 150 health care providers. Data collection was carried out in the provinces of Faranah and Labé and in the capital, Conakry.
Results The majority of health care providers participating in this study were opposed to FGM and its medicalization. Survey data showed that 94% believed that it was a serious problem; 89% felt that it violated the rights of girls and women and 81% supported criminalization. However, within the health sector, there is no enforcement or accountability to the national law banning the practice. Despite opposition to the practice, many (38%) felt that FGM limited promiscuity and 7% believed that it was a good practice.
Conclusion Health care providers could have an important role in communicating with patients and passing on prevention messages that can contribute to the abandonment of the practice. Understanding their beliefs is a key step in developing these approaches.