FGM/C still widespread, says
“It is a day I don’t want to remember.
Whenever it comes to my mind, it sends
shivers down my spine,” said Aya Abdel
Aati, aged 17, recalling the painful experience
of her circumcision at the age of 12. She
says she bled for several days.
Despite efforts by the authorities, NGOs,
and international agencies to eliminate
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
(FGM/C), the practice is still widespread in
Egypt and deeply rooted in the minds of the
people, according to a study funded by World
Health Organization (WHO) entitled
Investigating Women’s Sexuality in Relation
to Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt.
“The main reason we found for the continuation
of the practice is a drive to control a
woman’s sexuality before marriage as a means
of ensuring her virginity and therefore her marriageability by delivering an intact bride
to her prospective husband,” the study said.
The study said many of those surveyed saw
FGM/C as a “family affair” and a personal
decision, in which the government should
not interfere. “Therefore they are highly
skeptical that regulations and laws recently
introduced to stamp out the practice will
actually succeed,” it said.
In 2008, Egypt passed a law criminalizing FGM/C with punishments ranging from
three months to two years in prison, and a
fine of 1,000-5,000 Egyptian pounds (about
Experts believe that although female
circumcision is widespread, considerable progress has been achieved. “The
Demographic Health Survey of 2008
[published in 2009] showed that 72 percent
of girls aged 15-30 were circumcised,
compared to 96 percent of the same age
group in the Demographic Health Survey of
1995,” said Azza Shalaby, gender adviser at
Plan Egypt, a children’s development NGO.
However, the Demographic Health Survey
of 2008 also indicated that 91 percent of
women aged 15-49 were circumcised.
Elaine Bainard, head of UNICEF Egypt’s
Child Protection Section, believes the
prevalence of FGM/C is high but decreasing.
“We believe that as more and more families
publicly declare their position not to cut, and
as their daughters are successfully married,
the momentum will grow further.”
Religious leaders, both Muslims and
Christians, are playing an important role
fighting in FGM/C, preaching that the practice
is not related to Islam or Christianity.
However, there are conflicting views
among them, according to the WHO-funded
study. “This was particularly true for Muslim
leaders, who are bombarded with contradictory
messages from official religious scholars
and so-called 'tele-sheikhs', religious figures
on TV and other media,” the study said.
Physical, psychological damage
Meanwhile, circumcised girls and women are
suffering physically and psychologically.
“The process of FGM/C can be very traumatic
for girls, as they are compelled or
forced to comply with the procedure. They
must endure the physical pain but also the
emotional aftermath of being subjected to
the cutting by those she loves,” Bainard said.
In extreme cases, where the cut has been
extensive, girls could face increased risks
during childbirth, and incontinence, she
“Some women have urinary tract problems
and others severe bleeding during delivery,”
said Plan Egypt’s Shalaby. “But circumcised
women worry less about health complications
than the psychological effect and
shock. They say they became more secluded
“Giving them [people] solid information
about the benefits of abandoning FGM/C
within the context of social pressure to
abandon it, is achieving success, but it takes
time,” Bainard said.
of upload: 15th Aug 2010