30 January 2023

Navigating Challenges: Mauritania's Ongoing Efforts Against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

Blog by Savannah Grantham for the FGM/C Research Initiative

In Mauritania, the battle against female genital mutilation/cutting (‘FGM/C’) is a multifaceted effort involving government entities, UN agencies, religious associations and civil-society organisations. Through intensive public-awareness campaigns, significant progress has been made in shifting popular attitudes towards gender-based violence, including FGM/C.

Despite these efforts, challenges persist. FGM/C among women aged 15 to 49 in Mauritania stands at 63.9%. The highest rates are observed in regions such as Hodh El Gharbi (a prevalence of 93.7%), Tagant (88.2%) and Guidimakha (84.6%).

A closer look at the age at which women undergo FGM/C reveals that 58.4% of those cut were subjected to the practice before the age of five, while 40.7% are unaware of when it occurred. The most common type of FGM/C practised is a cut with some flesh removed. 78.8% of incidences are carried out by traditional practitioners.

According to a national workshop held in February 2019, recommendations were made to strengthen anti-FGM/C legislation, protect women and girls, investigate cases promptly and provide support services for victims. The involvement of stakeholders such as the Mauritanian Association of Practices affecting the health of Women and Children and international NGO No Peace Without Justice has been instrumental in advancing the fight against FGM/C.

The prevalence of FGM/C in Mauritania is higher among women in rural areas than those in urban areas. The higher a woman’s levels of education and wealth, the less liklely it is that she has been cut and that she will have her daughters cut. Household language also plays a role in the likelihood of cutting – prevalence varies according to the primary language spoken by the household’s head.

While progress has been made in some regions, the persistence of FGM/C among certain ethnic groups underscores the need for continued vigilance and action. Attitudes towards FGM/C in Mauritania present a complex picture. 38.4% of women and 49.4% of men aged 15 to 49 believe that the practice should continue. This underscores the need for targeted awareness campaigns and education initiatives to shift societal norms and perceptions.

By strengthening legal frameworks, enhancing education programs and eradicating child marriage, Mauritania aims to create a safer and more inclusive society for all its citizens.

For more detailed insights and data on FGM/C in Mauritania, you can access the full report [here].