The number of girls who are at risk for genital mutilation increased drastically from 2015 to 2023, The United Nations reported.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the practice of essentially circumcising a female — usually at a prepubescent age — that signifies the virginity of young girls and women and is also used to curb sexual urges.
The UN reported that just under four million young women and girls were at risk for genital mutilation in 2015. That number jumped to 4.3 million in 2023 and experts predict that if the practice continues, up to 4.6 million women and girls will be at risk of receiving the procedures.
There are various ways genital mutilation takes place, however, infibulation — the partial stitching up of the vulva — was one of the most popular practices of mutilation that originated mostly in African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries during the Red Sea Slave Trade.
Women who had undergone infibulation surgeries were thought to be more desirable and were purchased at a higher price during the aforementioned slave trade which took place between 1400 and the 1900s. The enslaved women were more valuable for their chastity and because the slave owners knew they would not become pregnant, according to a 2021 report investigating the historical relevance of the practice.
“According to descriptions by early travelers, infibulated female slaves had a higher price on the market because infibulation was thought to ensure chastity and loyalty to the owner and prevented undesired pregnancies,” the report read.