Liberia


FGM PREVALENCE: 44.4%

Key Findings


In Liberia, the estimated prevalence of FGM in girls and women aged 15-49 is 44.4%.  This estimate is based on membership of Sande, the secret society of women in Liberia, which uses initiation rituals for membership that involve FGM.  44.4% of all women aged 15-49 are members of Sande, and it includes more than half of all ethnic groups.  The extent to which FGM occurs outside of Sande has not been widely studied.

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Geography

FGM appears to be most commonly practised in the north-western and north-central regions

Age

FGM is most likely to take place during adolescence, when young women undergo Sande initiation

Type

Type I (partial or full clitoridectomy) is the most common type of FGM practised

Agent

FGM is performed by a Majo, who runs the bush school adolescent girls attend and is a Sande society leader

Development Indicators


Population

4,722,887 (as at 9 May 2017), with a 2.44% growth rate (2016 est.)

Infant Mortality Rate

53 deaths per 1,000 live births (2015)

Maternal Mortality Rate

725 deaths per 100,000 live births (2015)  

Literacy

47.6% of the total population aged 15 and over can read/write

Prevalence of FGM


Prevalence of FGM

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.  Because of the taboo nature of FGM, the prevalence of FGM outside of Sande has not been studied, and the DHS presents figures for women who have heard of and are members of Sande, noting that ‘Membership in the Sande society is a proxy for female genital cutting’.  The figures presented below and on the map have therefore been adjusted to represent the prevalence of FGM in all women aged 15-49.

44.4% of all women aged 15-49 are members of Sande society and are therefore assumed to have undergone FGM.  More women who live in rural areas are members of Sande (55.6%) than women who live in urban areas (37.2%), and membership is far more common in North Central (68.1%) and North Western (67.9%) regions than in other parts of the country.  The lowest percentage of membership is in Maryland county (1.9%), in the far south-east, although this figure is based on a small number of women and should be treated with caution.

Membership of Sande and attitudes as to whether it and its practices should continue are inversely related to level of education and wealth, and vary more greatly in accordance with county of residence and religion.

Trends in FGM Prevalence


Trends in FGM Prevalence

The prevalence of FGM in women aged 15-49 is 44.4%.  This is a decrease from the figure of 58.2% reported by the DHS in 2007.  Reasons for this apparent large drop over a six-year period are unclear.

Due to the large age-range of women included, the overall prevalence alone may not fully reflect the progress that has been made in recent years.  Breaking down the most recent data by age group shows that membership of Sande, and thus prevalence of FGM, for women aged 45-49 is 66.1%, while for the youngest age group this has fallen to 26.4%.  Despite the fact that a small proportion of women may be cut after the age of 15, the data suggests a trend towards lower prevalences among younger women.

FGM Legislation in Liberia


The Liberian Government has not yet passed legislation that prohibits the practice of FGM.   However, it has proposed a stand-alone anti-FGM bill, which has been drafted and submitted for consideration.

RESEARCH & RESOURCES


Research and resources for Liberia