The risk of female genital cutting in Europe: comparing immigrant attitudes toward uncut girls with attitudes in a practicing country

Thumbnail Image
Vogt, Sonja
Efferson, Charles
Fehr, Ernst
Issue Date
Female Genital Cutting , Immigration , Implicit Association Test , Sudan
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Alternative Title
Worldwide, an estimated 200 million girls and women have been subjected to female genital cutting. Female genital cutting is defined as an intentional injury to the female genitalia without medical justification. The practice occurs in at least 29 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. In addition, globalization and migration have brought immigrants from countries where cutting is commonly practiced to countries where cutting is not traditionally practiced and may even be illegal. In countries receiving immigrants, governments and development agencies would like to know if girls with parents who immigrated from practicing countries are at risk of being cut. Risk assessments, for example, could help governments identify the need for programs promoting the abandonment of cutting among immigrants. Extrapolating from the prevalence and incidence rates in practicing countries, however, is generally not sufficient to guarantee a valid estimate of risk in immigrant populations. In particular, immigrants might differ from their counterparts in the country of origin in terms of attitudes toward female genital cutting. Attitudes can differ because migrants represent a special sample of people from the country of origin or because immigrants acculturate after arriving in a new country. To examine these possibilities, we used a fully anonymous, computerized task to elicit implicit attitudes toward female genital cutting among Sudanese immigrants living in Switzerland and Sudanese people in Sudan. Results show that Sudanese immigrants in Switzerland were significantly more positive about uncut girls than Sudanese in Sudan, and that selective migration out of Sudan likely contributed substantially to this difference. We conclude by suggesting how our method could potentially be coupled with recent efforts to refine extrapolation methods for estimating cutting risk among immigrant populations. More broadly, our results highlight the need to better understand how heterogeneous attitudes can affect the risk of cutting among immigrant communities and in countries of origin.
Vogt, S., Efferson, C., & Fehr, E. (2017). The risk of female genital cutting in Europe: Comparing immigrant attitudes toward uncut girls with attitudes in a practicing country. SSM - population health, 3, 283–293.
SSM - Population Health
PubMed ID