Despite a 1995 ministerial decree forbade the practice of Female Genital Mutilation and made it punishable by fine and imprisonment the figures remain shocking. It is one of the most pervasive and silently endured human rights violations. It has a reflective influence on a girl-child’s development throughout her life. This procedure is carried to retain women "pure," marriageable and incapable of enjoying sex. The procedure is usually performed on girls between the age of 4 to 12 years, prior to the onset of puberty. However, the procedure may be carried out shortly after birth to some time before the age of marriage.
Female genital mutilation is the damage and removal of normal genital tissue for non-medical reasons. It is harmful to both girls and women and has no known health benefits. The consequences range from acute severe pain and mental trauma to long-term consequences, which lead to increased maternal and neonatal mortality. There are variety of cultural and religious reasons reported for female genital mutilation, however, FGM is not based on any confirmed religious belief.
A series of later ministerial decrees allowed certain forms but prohibited others. Doctors were prohibited from performing the procedure in government health facilities and non-medical practitioners were forbidden from practicing any form. In 1996, a ministerial decree prohibited all medical and non-medical practitioners from performing FGC in either public or private facilities, except for medical reasons certificated by the head of a hospital’s obstetric and gynecology department. Perpetrators can lose their medical license and be subjected to criminal punishment. Egypt officially banned female genital mutilation in 2007
According to a campaigning organization “CAGeM” they surveyed girls and asked for reasons to support the practice and they answered that circumcision is an important religious tradition (33.4%), cleanliness for girls (18.9%), cultural and social tradition (17.9%) and chastity (15.9%). Of note, religious tradition is still the most important reason for performing FGM in Egypt, which agrees with the results obtained from Demographic and Health Surveys in Egypt in 2000 and 2003. In these surveys, 72% of ever-married women reported that circumcision is an important part of religious tradition and about two-thirds of the women had the impression that the husband prefers his wife to be circumcised.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 94 percent of women in Egypt arrange for their daughters to undergo FGM, as it is the highest compared to the other Arab countries, as it’s only 76 percent in Yemen, 48 percent in Cote d’Ivoire and even in Kenya it’s only 46 percent.
“The Demographic and Health Survey in Egypt in 1995 reported that more than one-third of ever-married women cited cleanliness as a reason while a small number saw it as a way to prevent promiscuity before marriage. In some communities, some families refuse to accept women who have not undergone FGM as marriage partners. Other studies in Africa concluded that the most significant factors associated with the acceptance of FGM were religion, tradition and social pressure, as reported in Egypt and Sudan, while ethnicity was the most significant social predictor of FGM in Nigeria. Also, and of note, sexuality was an important reason cited for this practice in some countries like Nigeria.” Said Nawal Ghatas, one of the women working for the CAGeM organisation.
CAGeM partners with established organizations in various communities around the world, encourage them to include FGM educational outreach in their programs, and supports these programs. CAGeM also facilitates the formation of grassroots campaigns in FGM practicing communities; trains FGM practitioners on alternate careers, trains physicians on FGM repair surgery, and provide free treatment and surgery to FGM patients. In addition CAGeM establishes safe houses for girls rescued from/escaping FGM.
As for the surveys that are conducted by the U.S.-based Macro International every 5-6 years that up to 91 percent of girls in Egypt between the ages of 15-49 have been circumcised when they were younger and could not protect themselves.
Even though this practice has been outlawed in Egypt in 1997 but no one has ever been prosecuted. It has been banned due to the psychological and physical violence against children, and how harmful and dangerous it is.
Written by Monica Elashy
Out of the four different types of operations the one that Egyptian girls undergo and is common in the rural areas is type three which is the removal of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching and/or narrowing of the vaginal opening leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow.
There are several reasons behind this big decision in a girl’s fate, which is religious requirement, preservation of virginity, better marriage prospects, the enhancement of male sexual pleasure, prevention of promiscuity, or good tradition.
"The importance given to virginity and an intact hymen in these societies is the reason why female circumcision still remains a very widespread practice despite a growing tendency, especially in urban Egypt, to do away with it as something outdated and harmful. Behind circumcision lies the belief that, by removing parts of girls' external genitals organs, sexual desire is minimized. " Said Nawal El-Saadawi, a Muslim victim of infibulation.
The reason behind banning female circumcision according to The Guardian was after the death of a 12-year-old girl in governorate Minya, in Upper Egypt, while undergoing the operation.