The prevalence of FGM is highest in the North Western region
Initiation to Sande societies typically takes place during adolescence
Type I (partial or full clitoridectomy) is the most common type of FGM practised
FGM is performed by a zoe, who runs the bush school adolescent girls attend and is a Sande society leader
5,112,456 (as at 12 June 2020), with a 2.71% growth rate (2020 est.)
53.5 deaths per 1,000 live births (2019)
661 deaths per 100,000 live births (2017)
48.3% of the total population aged 15 and over can read/write
FGM in Liberia is closely linked with a woman’s entry into the Sande secret society and in fact forms part of the initiation ritual. However, anecdotal evidence from contacts who have worked in Liberia shows that women who are not members of Sande are also cut.
Because of the taboo nature of FGM, the country-wide prevalence of FGM outside of Sande has not been studied until very recently (in the DHS 2019–2020), and only limited data is currently available.
38.2% of women aged 15–49 have undergone FGM. The practice is considerably more prevalent among women who live in rural areas (52.3%) than those in urban areas (29.9%), and most prevalent in the North Western (68.3%) and North Central (54.2%) regions. The lowest prevalence of FGM is in the far south-east (2.9%).
FGM is more prevalent among Muslim women (58.6%) than Christian women (34.7%) and is less prevalent in women in higher wealth quintiles than those in the lower quintiles.
This page will be updated as further data is released by DHS.
The prevalence of FGM in women aged 15–49 (38.2%) cannot be directly compared with data from previous years, which used membership of Sande societies as a proxy for FGM. In any case, due to the large age-range of women included in DHS surveys, changes in the overall FGM prevalence in a country over time may not fully illustrate the progress that has been made.
Breaking down the most recent data by age group suggests that the practice is in decline. In women aged 45–49, 59.7% of women have experienced FGM, while in women aged 15–19 this figure is 27.6%. Despite the fact that a small number of women may be cut after the age of 15, the data suggests a trend towards lower prevalence in younger women.
FGM Legislation in Liberia
See Liberia: The Law and FGM for more detail.