16 March 2023

Nigeria's Battle Against Female Genital Mutilation: A Hard Look at the Numbers and the Fight Ahead

Blog by Savannah Grantham for the FGM/C Research Initiative

In Nigeria, female genital mutilation/cutting (‘FGM/C’) continues to be a serious problem that affects a great number of women and girls. Orchid Project’s recent Country Profile Update on FGM/C in Nigeria provides a thorough examination of the current landscape, offering crucial statistics and insights to inform responses to this harmful practice.

The Magnitude of FGM/C

10% of all FGM/C cases worldwide are thought to occur in Nigeria, where an estimated 20 million girls and women have undergone cutting.

In Nigeria, 19.5% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have had FGM/C; this percentage has been steady in recent years. Regional differences do, however, exist, with cutting practices differing between states and zones.

Data analysed in the Country Profile Update reveal that, while the overall prevalence of FGM/C in Nigeria is 19.5%, the sheer size of the population means a significant number of women and girls are affected. Nigeria ranks among the top four countries globally in terms of FGM/C prevalence, alongside Indonesia, Ethiopia and Egypt. This fact highlights the scale of the problem and the need for focused actions to reach those who are most vulnerable.


There are notable differences in the frequency of FGM/C between Nigeria’s regions, ethnic groups and religious affiliations. For instance, prevalence is highest among the Yoruba ethnic group (54.5%) and among practitioners of traditionalist religions (34.8%). The South East and South West Zones exhibit the highest regional prevalences (49% and 47.5%, respectively), while the North East Zone has the lowest prevalence at 2.9%. States like Ebonyi and Osun report exceptionally high prevalences, while Katsina records the lowest prevalence in the country. However, when considering the actual numbers of women and girls affected, states like Lagos, Kaduna and Imo emerge as hotspots due to their large populations. Lagos alone is estimated to have approximately 2,080,000 women and girls affected by FGM/C, highlighting the critical need for tailored interventions in densely populated areas.

Education and Socioeconomic Status

While FGM/C appears to be more common among wealthier, better-educated women in urban areas, these same women are less likely to have their daughters cut before the age of 15, indicating a decline in the practice across generations within these families.

Types of FGM/C

The most common type of FGM/C practised in Nigeria is a cut with some flesh removed. This is experienced by 62.6% of women who undergo FGM/C. Other types, such as a nick with no flesh removed and the most severe type (infibulation), are also practised to varying degrees.

Support for FGM/C

Over the years, there has been a steady decline in support for FGM/C among Nigerian women – in 2013, 64.3% expressed the belief that it should be stopped, compared to 47% in 1999.

The Update report also highlights the age at which FGM/C is typically performed in Nigeria. Many girls undergo the practice during early childhood. This early initiation not only poses immediate health risks, but also perpetuates intergenerational cycles of harm and trauma. Breaking this pattern and ensuring the safety of future generations of girls requires addressing with young people the root causes and cultural beliefs that drive FGM/C.

The report emphasises how critical it is to coordinate FGM/C-prevention initiatives with the Sustainable Development Goals (‘SDGs’). A framework for tackling the complex effects of FGM/C on women and girls in Nigeria is provided by SDG 5 on gender equality, SDG 4 on education and SDG 3 on good health and wellbeing. Nigeria can move towards long-lasting transformation by incorporating FGM/C-prevention campaigns into larger development projects.

FGM/C in Nigeria is driven by intricate societal, religious and geographical factors, as the studies examined in the report highlight. Education, law enforcement, healthcare access and community involvement are just a few of the many variables that need to be taken into account in any effort to stop this practice.

Orchid Project’s Country Profile Update on FGM/C in Nigeria serves as a vital resource for understanding the complexities of this harmful traditional practice and guiding evidence-based interventions. Leveraging data, statistics and targeted strategies, Nigeria can accelerate progress towards eradicating FGM/C and safeguarding the rights and wellbeing of women and girls across the country.

To access the full Country Profile Update on FGM/C in Nigeria and explore in-depth statistics and recommendations, please click [here].