Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology & Criminal Justice

Committee Director

Karen A. Polonko

Committee Member

Lucien X. Lombardo

Committee Member

Elizabeth Monk-Turner


Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the cutting off of female genitals for nonmedical purposes (WHO 2008). FGM is a gender specific practice, which has no health benefits and severe consequences. In addition, the victims of this form of physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional violence are predominantly children between birth and age 15 (WHO 2008). Female genital mutilation is an egregious act, which must be eradicated. This study sought to begin the process of securing preliminary estimates for FGM in countries that lacked data on FGM in the Middle East and Africa, thereby shedding light on this extremely detrimental and oppressive practice.

The data collection process was to develop a list of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) dealing with FGM, women's and/or children's rights in general for the 29 countries lacking data in the Middle East and Africa. A survey on the prevalence, predictors, and reasons for the continuation of this practice was developed and distributed to NGOs via email. This process ultimately yielded a respondent from one NGO in 16 of the 29 countries. However, a number of the respondents work for general human rights NGOs.

Of the 16 countries, respondents in only four of these countries admitted that they knew of even one case of FGM that occurred in their country. Responses on what groups the NGOs thought are more likely to practice FGM were consistent with prior research in pointing to Muslim religion, women with lower education, rural region, and lower household wealth. Reasons these 16 respondents gave for the continuation of this practice were also similar to reasons given in prior literature including community/tradition, religion, increasing female marriage prospects, controlling female sexuality, and to keep female genitals clean. A hypothesis was generated to explain possible differences on prevalence in FGM that may exist in regions in the Middle East, North Africa, and Sub Saharan Africa. Furthermore, the key to the eradication of FGM based on the survey responses is to have community leaders and religious leaders speak out against the practice. In addition, we must promote equality amongst men, women, and children.


A Thesis Submitted to the Faculties of Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Master of Arts in Applied Sociology.


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