BOSTON (CBS Connecticut) - According to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, over 130 million women throughout the world have been subjected to female genital mutilation.
In the United States alone, an estimated 228,000 women and girls are said to be either at risk of female genital cutting, or have already endured the process.
“This represents a significant increase from the 168,000 females who were reported to have undergone or be at risk for [female genital cutting] in the 1990s,” a release posted on the hospital’s website noted.
Around the globe, however, the ritualistic mutilation is on the decline, according to the United Nations.
The new statistics were released by the U.N. on Feb. 6, which is universally recognized as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
“In the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where the practice of [female genital mutilation/cutting] is concentrated, on average, 36 percent of girls aged 15-19 have been cut compared to an estimated 53 percent of women aged 45-49,” the United Nations Children’s Fund noted on their website.
The organization added, “The decline is particularly sharp in some countries. [I]n Kenya, for example, women aged 45-49 are three times more likely to have been cut than girls aged 15-19.”
The World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation as any procedure that alters or injures female genital organs on purpose and for no discernible medical reason.
WHO also noted that the process does not benefit girls or women in any way, and can lead to severe complications such as infections and infertility.
Officials were encouraged by the findings.
“Empowered women and girls are key to breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and for the promotion and protection of human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, was quoted as saying.
Added UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake, “This progress shows it is possible to end [female genital mutilation/cutting] … [a practice which is] deeply wrong. [W]e can and must end it to help millions of girls and women lead healthier lives.”
The organization reportedly plans to release additional data of a more comprehensive nature later this year.