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All in the Family: Explaining the Persistence of Female Genital Cutting in the Gambia

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 13:00 to 14:00

Marc Bellemare, Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota, gave a talk at LIDC this week on why female genital cutting (FGC) persists in certain places while has declined elsewhere.

100 million women worldwide have been subject to female genital cutting and an additional 3 million girls undergo the practice every year. The phenomenon is most widespread in Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East, but also in OECD countries with large immigrant populations. The cutting usually takes place in childhood, between birth and age 15, most frequently when the girl is four to eight years old. In addition to being a violation of human rights, FGC can lead to complications when giving birth and post traumatic stress disorder, which in turn can cause lower educational attainment and lower labour productivity.

So why does FGC persist in some countries and not others? Using survey data from the Gambia and Senegal, Marc and his team studied the relationship between whether a woman has undergone FGC and her support for the practice.

Results suggest that a woman who has undergone FGC is 40 percentage points more likely to be in favour of the practice. Secondly, the findings indicate that 85% of the relationship between whether a woman has undergone FGC and her support for the practice can be attributed to individual- or household-level factors, but that only 15% of that relationship can be explained by factors at the village level or beyond. This suggests that village-wide pledges against FGC, though they have worked well in neighbouring Senegal, are unlikely to be effective in the Gambia. Rather, policies aimed at eliminating FGC in this context should instead target individuals and households if they are to be effective.

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PDF icon BellemareLIDCSeminarNovember2013.pdf439.71 KB