Female genital mutilation and cutting in the Arab League and diaspora: A systematic review of preventive interventions

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Tropical Medicine and International Health


Objectives: Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) is an act of gender-based violence (GBV) and a global public health issue with well-documented adverse outcomes. With the rise in global migration, there is an increasing prevalence of FGM/C among Arab diaspora living in the West and Global South. What remains unclear is how to reduce the practice. This study was designed to identify interventions exerting an effect on reducing the practice of FGM/C. Methods: A systematic review of peer-reviewed articles was conducted on interventions targeting individuals and/or the broader community to prevent FGM/C within the Arab League and its diaspora, up to December 2021. Databases searched included PubMed, Medline, Web of Science, PsycINFO, EMBASE, CINAHL, BIOSIS, ASSIA and Scopus. Quality assessment used the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT) 2018. Results: Twelve of 896 studies met the inclusion criteria. Eight interventions relied entirely on education with short-term gains but unchanged practices. Three interventions used social marketing and mixed media. Only one study took a multi-sectoral approach. Conclusions: At a macro level, opportunities to reduce or to end the practice of FGM/C exist through legislation, policy, a public health approach grounded in gender equality and human rights. Using multi-sectoral actions that consider the social context and challenge social norms at macro, meso and micro levels appears more effective than individual-level interventions. Promoting advocacy and developing supportive environments to reduce GBV, enhance gender equality and empower communities is crucial for interventions to succeed and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target of FGM/C abandonment by 2030.

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