The United Nations Children’s Fund on Wednesday said that at least 200 million girls and women around the world have undergone female genital mutilation, according to new data. Nearly a quarter of them were cut when they were below the age of 14, a report released by UNICEF said. At least half them were from Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Previous UNICEF data placed the number at around 125 million. The rise in numbers may be because of population growth in these places, the report said. Exact numbers are not available as many of the 30 countries where the ritual is practised do not keep reliable data on victims. But Claudia Cappa, lead author of the report, said data from Indonesia showed that it was more widely practised than thought. Female genital mutilation was banned in the country in 2006.

The Guardian reported that Somalia has the highest number of incidents of females who have been cut, with 98% of the female population between the ages of 15 and 49 having been victim to the procedure. In Guinea and Djibouti as well, over 90% of women between 15 and 49 have been cut, but Indonesia is where the practice is most prevalent. Cappa said data showed it is a global issue now, when earlier the focus was mostly on Africa.

The ritual removal of female genitalia is a dangerous process and is usually carried out without anaesthesia. The practice differs according to ethnic groups and countries, but most involve removal of parts of the clitoris and labia and closure of the vulva. It results in severe health problems, including chronic pain, cysts, fatal bleeding, an increased risk during childbirth, etc. Women who have been cut also have to undergo procedures to reopen their genitalia later when they have intercourse and bear children. FGM has no health benefits for women, and is seen as a violation of human rights and an act that reflects attempts to control women’s sexuality.