30 June 2023

New Report Highlights Persistent High Rates of Female Genital Mutilation in Ethiopia and Urgent Need for Targeted Interventions

Blog by Savannah Grantham for the FGM/C Research Initiative

A recent report by Orchid Project provides a clear picture of how common female genital mutilation/cutting (‘FGM/C’) is in Ethiopia. 65.2% of Ethiopian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone the practice. Data from the Demographic and Health Surveys emphasise the need for focused efforts to challenge this deeply embedded practice.


Over time, Ethiopia has seen a decline in the frequency of FGM/C. The prevalence decreased from 79.9% in 2000 to 65.2% in 2016. However, the country’s growing population presents a challenge and amplifies the total number of girls who are at risk of FGM/C.

Understanding the age at which cutting occurs and the specific types of FGM/C practised in Ethiopia is crucial for creating interventions that are specifically targeted at the most vulnerable. A concerning number of girls under the age of 15 are undergoing this hazardous ritual.

65% of FGM/C in Ethiopia involves nicking or cutting the genitals, and 35% involves a cut that removes a small amount of flesh. Both types of cutting endanger girls’ and women’s health and wellbeing.

Regional Disparities

The frequency of FGM/C varies throughout Ethiopia. In the eastern regions, like Somalia and Affar, it is noticeably more common than, for example, in the northern province of Tigray. Despite lower levels of cutting in certain regions, densely populated areas like Oromiya and Amhara account for the majority of affected women and girls.

Attitudes Toward FGM/C

Even though most Ethiopian men and women are against FGM/C, a significant minority still believe it should continue. Studies suggest that indirect questioning methods reveal higher levels of support than direct inquiries, which may mean there is a growing discomfort with publicly supporting the practice.

One of the biggest obstacles to ending FGM/C in Ethiopia is the deeply embedded attitudes and gender norms that exist in many communities. Behaviours are difficult to change when they are driven by ingrained beliefs and cultural expectations. These damaging conventions need to be questioned and gender equality advanced to successfully eliminate the underlying drivers of FGM/C.

Ethnic identity and beliefs about religious requirements also play strong roles in influencing FGM/C practices, so engaging religious leaders is crucial to shift these beliefs. Ethiopians can also try to change the attitudes that support this detrimental practice by involving communities in conversations and awareness-raising initiatives.

While medicalised FGM/C was banned in 2017, conditions for its total elimination still need to be improved, including complete criminalisation and access for medical practitioners to legal services.

Socioeconomic Impact

Orchid Project’s report highlights the fundamental connections between FGM/C and other general development goals, including gender equality, healthcare and education. Efforts to end FGM/C are linked to Ethiopia meeting (or not) the Sustainable Development Goals for gender equality, education and health.

FGM/C is deeply rooted in societal norms, affecting perceptions of chastity and marriageability. Girls may undergo the practice to avoid social exclusion. Ethiopia can significantly advance the rights and wellbeing of women and girls by adopting a comprehensive strategy that tackles the complex effects of FGM/C on society, using ethno-specific interventions.

Take Action!

To expedite the eradication of FGM/C, the report advocates for multi-sectoral strategies and the allocation of additional financial resources. Important tactics include focusing on specific geographic hotspots, enhancing research techniques and interacting with local leaders. It is also essential to combine campaigns for girls’ rights, education and economic development with FGM/C awareness-raising.

In conclusion, despite Ethiopia’s progress in combating FGM/C, more coordinated efforts are required to bring about a significant improvement. Ethiopia may progress toward eradicating this detrimental practice and safeguarding the welfare of its women and girls by comprehending regional inequalities, addressing sociocultural factors and setting targeted measures into action.

For further details, the complete Country Profile Update is accessible [here].