Background: Men in their roles as fathers, husbands, community and religious leaders may play a pivotal part in the continuation of female genital mutilation (FGM). However, the research on their views of FGM and their potential role in its abandonment are not well described.
Methods: We undertook a systematic review of all publications between 2004 and 2014 that explored men's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours in regards to FGM, as well as their ideas about FGM prevention and abandonment.
Results: We included twenty peer-reviewed articles from 15 countries in the analysis. Analysis revealed ambiguity of men's wishes in regards to the continuation of FGM. Many men wished to abandon this practice because of the physical and psychosexual complications to both women and men. Social obligation and the silent culture between the sexes were posited as major obstacles for change. Support for abandonment was influenced by notions of social obligation, religion, education, ethnicity, urban living, migration, and understanding of the negative sequelae of FGM. The strongest influence was education.
Conclusion: The level of education of men was one of the most important indicators for men's support for abandonment of FGM. Social obligation and the lack of dialogue between men and women were two key issues that men acknowledged as barriers to abandonment. Advocacy by men and collaboration between men and women's health and community programs may be important steps forward in the abandonment process.