Majority in Iraqi Kurdistan oppose female genital mutilation 7 Survey reveals widespread knowledge of FGM’s dangers, with 68% of people saying it should be eliminated

Liz Ford –, Monday 8 September 2014 15.07 BST   – The majority of people in Iraqi Kurdistan think female genital mutilation (FGM) should be eradicated and blame traditional beliefs for its continued practice.

In the first survey to investigate attitudes towards FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan, conducted by a coalition of UN agencies and the Kurdish regional government, 68% of people, including religious leaders, said the practice should be eliminated, and almost the same number said it should be banned as a tradition. More than 125 million women and girls globally are estimated to be living with the consequences of FGM, according to the World Health Organisation, and 30 million more girls are at risk of being cut. The practice, which involves the partial or total removal of female genitalia, is still carried out in 29 countries in the Middle East and Africa. In 2012, the UN passed a resolution banning FGM. But a report published last year by the UN children’s agency Unicef found that FGM was still widespread in the northern regions of Iraq, despite the practice being banned in Kurdistan in 2011.

The Kurdistan knowledge, attitudes and practices survey, published on Monday, was designed to find the root causes of FGM. It found that while the practice is still a concern, fewer girls are now being cut. Those who are tend to be from illiterate families. The survey of 827 households in Irbil and Sulaimaniya governorates in northern Iraq revealed that mothers decided whether their daughters underwent FGM or not, and religious leaders are still perceived to be the major supporters of the practice in their communities. Some 46% of those surveyed think FGM is related to religious beliefs.

More than 80% of respondents knew that mutilation can reduce sexual desire and sexual satisfaction, and about half (51%) knew it can cause psychological problems, but 57% did not know FGM can cause difficulties in childbirth and 35% were unaware it can cause other health problems. Some 36% of men said they did not know FGM harmed women.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed believed the law banning the practice could help. Almost 60% of Kurds said they were aware of the law. More than 90% were in favour of increased education on FGM for their daughters, with most women preferring this to come from health professionals. Men preferred information to come from religious leaders. “FGM is a violation against the humanity of a woman,” said Pakhshan Zangana, secretary general of the high council of women’s affairs in Kurdistan. “The practice robs women of their will, objectifies and dehumanises them and must be completely eradicated from Kurdistan.” Marzio Babille, Iraq’s representative for Unicef, added: “All Iraqis should have pride in the declines in FGM practices in the region and continue the remarkable work to achieve its complete elimination.”The results of the survey will be used to help fully eliminate the practice from the region.