Background: Female genital mutilation (FGM) is nontherapeutic surgical modification of the female genitalia. It is an ancient tradition in large parts of Africa, including Ethiopia, especially in the eastern part of the country. This study aimed to identify the prevalence, perceptions, perpetuators, reasons for conducting FGM, and factors associated with this practice with regard to women's health.
Methods: Community-based cross-sectional house-to-house interviews were conducted during 2008 among 858 females of reproductive age (15-49 years), in Kersa district, East Hararge, Oromia region, Ethiopia. Proportions and Chi-square tests were used to describe the data and logistic regression was used to describe statistical associations. Statistical significance was set at P < 0.05.
Results: FGM was reported to be known by 327 (38.5%) of the interviewees. The majority (n = 249, 76.1%) reported that local healers were the main performers of FGM, and 258 (78.9%) respondents stated that the clitoris was the part removed during circumcision. The main reason for the practice of FGM was reduction of female sexual hyperactivity (reported by 198 women [60.3%]). Circumcision of daughters was reported by 288 (88.1%) respondents, and this showed a statistically significant association with the Christian religion (P = 0.003), illiteracy (P = 0.01), and Amhara ethnicity (P = 0.012). The majority of the respondents (792, 92.3%) were themselves circumcised and 68.8% did not know of any health-related problems associated with FGM.
Conclusion: In spite of FGM being a common practice in the study area, only one third of the respondents stated that they knew about it. Local healers were the main performers of FGM. Some of the women knew about the negative reproductive health effects of FGM and some had also experienced these themselves. However, only a few had tried to stop the practice and the majority had taken no steps to do so. This may be attributable to the fear of becoming alienated from the cultural system and fear of isolation.
Keywords: Ethiopia; female genital mutilation; health consequences; reasons.