A new study on FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan produced by several Kurdish medical scientists in cooperation with the KRG Ministry of Health appears largely consistent with Wadi’s findings from 2008. Investigating on its own initiative, the Kurdish government now seems to be truly willing to take concrete steps and play a positive role in the fight against the practice.
Among females from 6 months to 20 years of age the study detected an overall prevalence of 23%; however it has to be taken into account that (a) the study included Duhok province which is known for its low prevalence rate, and (b) the age group is restricted to young women and girls and even includes babies.
The study reported an FGM rate of 37% among girls in Erbil and 29% in Suleimaniah province. Wadi in 2008 found 57% in Erbil and 59% in Suleimaniyah among girls aged 14-19. These differences are not surprising considering the facts that
(a) the new study includes babies and small girls which may become genitally mutilated later,
(b) it excludes women above the age of 20 (with growing age there is a sharp rise in prevalence)
(c) in recent years there is growing awareness among people and Wadi observed a rapid downward trend in some areas,
(d) meanwhile FGM has been legally banned and become a punishable crime. It was observed in various African countries that under such conditions people are more likely to conceal the practice, especially when they are asked to report on their daughters for which they (at least in theory) could be hold accountable.
The authors did not outline why they restricted the age group as they did. Anyway, these kind of surveys can be an excellent tool to map the recent trend and should be repeated at least every two years to keep track on the latest developments.