|Badour Shakar died after an illegal circumcision was performed in Upper Egypt, and she became the poster child for the stop of FGM in Egypt. Source: AP|
While many people are concerned with reports that Islamists have taken the majority of seats in Egypt’s most recent parliamentary elections, another scary realization has also occurred post-revolution. Female genital mutilation (FGM) – also known as female circumcision – has increased since Hosni Mubarak stepped down from leadership.
FGM is the removal of all or part of a female’s genitalia (primarily the clitoris) for cultural or other non-medical reasons, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There are many reasons that this could take place, but the main belief in the Islamic world is to control a woman’s sexuality – thought to ensure virginity before and fidelity after marriage – and increase a man’s sexual pleasure.
In 1997, Egypt made the practice illegal except in certain circumstances (I really wish I knew the criteria because personally, I can’t imagine there being one); however, after the death of a 12-year old girl, Badour Shaker in June 2007, the Egyptian government banned the practice entirely unless administered by an accredited medical facility. Shaker died after undergoing the FGM operation in a private clinic in Minya, Upper Egypt, and then followed by a 13-year old in the village of Gharbiya.
Unicef predicted that the practice of FGM would decline over time from its 2005 levels of 77% among girls age 15-17 to around 60%. The organization undoubtedly didn’t see a revolution or its damaging effects on such projections. Although the Al-Azhar Supreme Council for Islamic Research – the highest religious authority in Egypt – issued a statement explaining that FGM had no basis in the core of Islamic Sharia or any of its partial provisions. Dar el Ifta, the authority issuing Fatwas (legal opinions issued by Islamic scholars) issued a Fatwa that condemned the practice.
Wife of former leader, Suzanne Mubarak stood firm against FGM and announced the amendment of the Child Law banning FGM. Naturally with the change in regime, the lawyer and head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights Nihad Abu Kumsan said that Suzanne Mubarak was only involved in the fight against FGM for self-promotional purposes. "She was devoid of a feminist vision or a socialist vision," Kumsan claimed. Call me crazy but even if that were true, at least she stood for something worthwhile that is harmful and damaging to young girls throughout the country (and other parts of the world).
Unicef created an abandonment program, which was supported by USAID, with a total budget of $1.6 million from 2002-2007 (although with placing the blame game on the US for its manufacturing of tear gas, many Egyptians fail to remember the financial aid it receives for programs such as this).
The US magazine, The New Republic, reported that the fight to stop girls from being circumcised in the country has decreased since the revolution due to a lack of funds. The report said that from a 2008 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey, 91% of all women between the ages of 15 and 49 had been mutilated. What’s even more so is a comparison that less-advanced Senegal (located in West Africa) has seen more progress in the fight to stop FGM after several thousand villages have pledged never to circumcise females again.
I didn’t believe that Egypt had such a high ratio of female circumcision, and I had asked several of my female friends. Unfortunately, for many women that have been circumcised, they do not know any different and are unable to tell you if the procedure has in fact taken place.
by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute