Published by: PLOS ONE
Year published: 2020

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a traditional surgical modification of the female genitalia comprising all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or nontherapeutic reasons. It can be harmful and violates girls' and women's human rights. FGM is a worldwide problem but mainly practiced in Africa. FGM is still widely practiced in Ethiopia despite being made a criminal offence in 2004. Objective Using data from three Ethiopian Demographic Health Surveys (EDHS) conducted in 2000, 2005 and 2016 the objective was to assess changes in prevalence of FGM and associated factors among women of reproductive age and their daughters. Methods EDHS datasets for the three surveys included data on FGM prevalence and socio-demographic factors. After weighting, the data were analysed using frequencies, proportions and the chi square test for trend. Categorical variables associated with FGM in 2016 were compared using OpenEpi and presented as prevalence ratios (Pr) with 95% Confidence Intervals (CI). Levels of significance were set at 5% (P<0.05). Results There was overall decline in FGM prevalence (from 79.9% to 74.3% to 65.2%, P<0.001), especially in younger women aged 15-19 years, and in the proportion of women who believed that the practice should continue (from 59.7% to 28.3% to 17.5%, P<0.001). There was also a decreasing trend of FGM in the daughters of the mothers who were interviewed, with prevalence significantly lower in mothers who had not themselves undergone FGM. Most (88.3%) women with FGM had the surgery as a child with the procedure mainly performed by a traditional circumciser (87.3%). Factors associated with higher FGM prevalence and lack of progress over the sixteen years included living in certain regions, especially Somali where FGM prevalence remained consistently <95%, lack of school education, coming from rural areas and living in less wealthy households. Conclusion Although progress has been slow, the prevalence of FGM in Ethiopia has declined over time. Recommendations to quicken the trajectory of decline targeting integrated interventions to high prevalence areas focusing on mothers, fathers, youngsters, religious leaders and schools and ensuring that all girls receive some form of education.