A description of female genital mutilation and force-feeding practices in Mauritania: implications for the protection of child rights and health

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 9;8(4):e60594. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060594. Print 2013.


Objectives: To establish the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) and force feeding (gavage) practices among children in Mauritania; to investigate factors related to FGM and gavage practices and attitude in Mauritania; and to explore implications related to the protection of children's rights and welfare.

Methods: Data from the Mauritania 2000-2001 DHS were used in this analysis. Data were collected from men and women about their attitude toward the continuation of FGM and gavage; women only were asked if they ever experienced one of these practices. Chi-square statistics were used to investigate differences in attitude and practice of FGM and gavage by demographic characteristics. Binary logistic regression was used to identify socio-demographic factors related to FGM and gavage outcomes.

Findings: The overall prevalence of FGM was 77% but varied depending on ethnicity. The majority of both female and male respondents favored the continuation of the practice (64% and 70%, respectively). Almost a quarter (23%) of women reported being force fed as a child and 32% of women and 29% of men approved the continuation of the practice. Gavage is almost exclusively practiced among Arabs.

Conclusion: The practice of both FGM and gavage is ongoing, although the prevalence and attitude towards both appears to vary as a function of ethnicity, wealth, education, marital status, and age. Contextually relevant intervention and enforcement strategies are needed to challenge these cultural norms and protect the rights and welfare of children in Mauritania.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Circumcision, Female / statistics & numerical data*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Human Rights Abuses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mauritania / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women's Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This study has no external funding source. Tulane University had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.