Skip to main content

FGM in the Middle East

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation, a form of violence and discrimination against girls and women. It is most often carried out on girls between infancy and age 15, though adult women are also subjected.

Where are women living with the consequences of female genital mutilation or at risk in the Middle East? 

UPDATE: In 2024, new statistics were released by UNICEF showing 230 million women and girls around the world are affected by FGM, a 15% increase or 30 million more girls and women being subjected to FGM, compared to the data released eight years ago.  This includes 6 million women and girls in the Middle East who have been subjected to FGM.

Both Yemen and Iraq have national prevalence data, but there is also evidence of the practice across the Middle East from Saudi Arabia and Oman to Iran and Kuwait.

FGM in the Middle East region, from Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Call For A Global Response (2020)

Rayehe Mozafarian founded Stop FGM Iran after writing her thesis on female genital mutilation in 2014. In 2019, she successfully campaigned for Sunni religious leaders in Iran to issue a fatwa saying that ‘female circumcision’ is not obligatory. Rayehe continues to advocate in Iran to break the silence around female sexuality and female genital mutilation and hopes to introduce a legal article in parliament. 

The falsehood that ‘female circumcision’ is a form of Islamic worship perpetuates the practice across the Middle East. When Habiba al Hinai, an Omani women’s rights activist, started to research the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Oman she was shocked. Almost 4 in 5 of the 100 women she spoke to reported being cut. 

Across the Middle East, efforts to end the practice often face a backlash from conservative sections of society. With little national or international recognition of prevalence in the region, activists face an uphill struggle to secure the resources needed to end the practice and provide survivors with the support they need. 

Are there laws against female genital mutilation in the Middle East? 

In the Middle East, only Iraq (Kurdistan) and Oman have specific laws or legal provisions banning female genital mutilation.