Examining Movement Against Female Genital Cutting In Egypt

Armen Hareyan's picture

Female Genital Cutting

Female genital cutting -- sometimes referred to as female circumcisionor female genital mutilation -- recently has become a "ferocious focusof debate in Egypt," and, "quite suddenly, forces opposing genitalcutting ... are pressing back as never before," the International Herald Tribune reports (Slackman, International Herald Tribune, 9/19).

Femalegenital cutting is a practice in which there is a partial or fullremoval of the labia, clitoris or both. About 6,000 girls undergogenital mutilation daily, and the World Health Organizationestimates that 100 million to 140 million women worldwide arecircumcised. At least 90% of women who undergo genital cutting live indeveloping countries -- such as Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone,Somalia and Sudan -- while almost no women undergo the practice inIran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, according to UNICEF.


Aspokesperson for the Egyptian health ministry has said that under theban, no member of the medical profession would be allowed to performthe operation in public or private clinics and that any person whobreaks the law will be punished. The country's top religiousauthorities, including the head of the Coptic Church and the GrandMufti, have expressed support for the ban (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 9/12).

According to the Herald Tribune,advocates of ending the procedure make up an "unlikely collaboration"between government and nongovernmental organizations, religious leadersand the news media. The "movement has broken through one of the mainbarriers to change: It is no longer considered taboo" to discussgenital cutting in public, the Herald Tribune reports.Opponents of the procedure said that television news shows andnewspapers aggressively have reported details about proceduresresulting in complications. In addition, a national hotline has beenset up to answer public questions about the procedure. The "shift seemsto have coincided" with an increased acceptance of talking aboutsexuality in the media, the Herald Tribune reports.

However,"widespread social change in Egypt comes slowly," and opponents ofgenital cutting face the challenge of persuading some leaders, such asOsama Mohamed el Moaseri, imam of a mosque in Basyoun, Egypt. "Thispractice has been passed down generation after generation, so it isnatural that every person circumcises his daughter," Moaseri said.

Nasrel Sayyid, assistant to the minister of health, said there already hasbeen a reduction in the number of girls undergoing the operation inurban areas and that an aggressive effort has been launched in morethan 100 villages to curb the practice (International Herald Tribune, 9/19).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.