Sierra Leone


Key Findings

The prevalence of FGM in women aged 15-49 is 89.6%.

FGM is closely linked with the Bondo secret society, as it is part of the initiation ritual.

69.2% of women and 46.3% of men believe that the practice should continue.

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The Northern region has the highest prevalence, at 96.3%, and the Western the lowest, at 75.6%


40.2% of women aged 15-49 who have undergone FGM were cut between the ages of 10 and 14


‘Cut, flesh removed’ is the most common type of FGM practised


Almost all instances of FGM are performed by traditional cutters

Development Indicators


6,725,664 (as at 23 May 2017), with a 2.36% growth rate (2016 est.)

Infant Mortality Rate

87 deaths per 1,000 live births (2015)

Maternal Mortality Rate

1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births (2015)


48.1% of the total population aged 15 and over can read/write

Prevalence of FGM

Prevalence of FGM

FGM in Sierra Leone is closely linked with the Bondo secret society, as it is part of the initiation ritual into that society.

The district with the highest FGM prevalence is Kambia, in the north (97.1% of women aged 15-49).  The district with the lowest prevalence is Western Area Urban, in the far west (74.1%).  FGM is more prevalent among women living in rural areas (94.3%) than among those living in urban areas (80.9%).

Prevalence is inversely correlated with a woman’s level of education, but is relatively unaffected by the wealth quintile in which a woman falls, unless she is in the highest wealth quintile, in which prevalence drops from 90% or more to 76.9% for women aged 15-49.

55.6% of women and 47.0% of men aged 15-49 believe that FGM is required by their religion, and 69.2% of women and 46.3% of men in the same age-range believe that the practice should continue.

Trends in FGM Prevalence

Trends in FGM Prevalence

Between 2008 and 2013, the overall prevalence for women aged 15-49 fell from 91.3% to 89.6%.  Due to the large age-range of women included, however, 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 the prevalence for women aged 45-49 is 97.8%, while for the youngest age group this has fallen to 74.3%. Despite the fact that a proportion of women may be cut after the age of 15, the data demonstrates a trend towards lower prevalences for younger women.

FGM Legislation in Sierra Leone

To date, the Government of Sierra Leone has not passed legislation that prohibits the practice of FGM.  A nationwide ban of FGM was declared in November 2014, due to the ebola crisis.  In 2015, when Sierra Leone was declared ebola free, President Ernest Bai Koroma stated that he hoped traditional practices that were discontinued during the outbreak would not be returned to.  Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

See Sierra Leone: The Law and FGM for more detail.


Research and resources for Sierra Leone