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Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt

Arielle Mottes 6203779 Health and Development Universiteit van Amsterdam Fordham University: Third Year

What role does Female Genital Mutilation play in female.2 TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. What is being done to end Female Genital Mutilation? . Introduction to Female Genital Mutilation Why is Female Genital Mutilation a common practice in Egypt? 2. male and family relations? 5. What is Female Genital Mutilation? 3. How is Female Genital Mutilation perceived in Egypt and around the world? 4.

This question can only be answered after taking an in depth look at the tradition of Female Genital Mutilation in the country where it is most prevalent. the question of whether or not Female Genital Mutilation should be regarded as a violation of humanity emerges. also know as FGM. a North African Arab country is a large player in the modern world. . its perception in Egypt and around the world. There is a fine line between having respect for a people¶s culture and taking action to prevent innocent people from suffering. After covering the history of Female Genital Mutilation. I have shared my topic with family and friends outside of my Health and Development class and most are incredibly shocked to hear the high statistics of women around the world. and especially (97%) in Egypt. a country that is caught between traditional practice and the progress they have made as members in modern society.3 1. I believe that in general. is such a staple in Egyptian culture. Egypt has a surprisingly high female circumcision rate and in this final paper. INTRODUCTION: Gaining an understanding of Genital Mutilation as a common practice in Egypt Egypt. As I sat in class and listened to the lecture on Female Genital Mutilation I myself was taken back by how awful the procedures are and how young the girls who have to go through the trauma of female circumcision are. and how Female Genital Mutilation is a human rights issue. gender relations in regards to the practice. communities are not aware of how severe Female Genital Mutilation is in 2010. I have made the attempt to gain an understanding of why Female Genital Mutilation. Egypt.

< ht t p: // www. wh o. piercing. The fourth category of Female Genital Mutilationincludes all other harmful procedures done to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes. ³Female Genital Mutilation. and burning the genital area.According to a survey published by the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) program in 2000. incising. which is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner or outer labia and is done with or without the removal of the clitoris. Infibulationis the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. Female Genital Mutilation The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies Female Genital Mutilation into four major categories. scraping.´ Web. i n t / m edi a cen tr e/ fa ct sh eet s/ fs241/ en / > . such as pricking. Egypt has 1 WHO Media Centre. Clitoridectomy is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and in rare cases can be only the removal of the prepuce of the clitoris.4 2.1 WHO reports that between 100 to 140 million girls and women face life dealing with the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation. Excision is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora and can be done with or without the excision of the labia majora.

also known as ³female traditional birth attendants. Female Genital Mutilation.4 Herodotus. who are male traditional health workers. Original Copyright: 1891 Momoh. History of Circumcision from Earliest Times to the Present. The history of Female Genital Mutilationis not precisely known but can be dated back at least 2000 years.F. excision. Peter Charles. Abington. discusses the ritual being practiced by the Phoenicians. Hittites. the importance of a woman¶s virginity 2 Sharief. Infibulation. it was more common for a female to be circumcised by dayas. which requires stitching and is a more elaborate and painful procedure than the first two. In the past. NJ: Africa World Press. sometimes younger. girls are usually circumcised between the seven and twelve years of age. is practiced on less than 5% of women in a very small area in the south of the Nile Valley close to the Sudan. Pg 4 5 . 2008. London. Comfort. ³Female Genital Mutilation: have we made progress?´ International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Some believe that in Egypt Female Genital Mutilationwas practiced to distinguish aristocracy and there have even been reports that infibulation can be seen on Egyptian mummies. Inc. an ancient Greek historian from the 5th century BC. UK. Toubia N. April 2003.´ or by barbers. Ethiopians. Pg 148 4 Remondino. and infibulations techniques. African Women's Health.2Clitoridectomy and Excision is the most common form of Female Genital Mutilationpracticed on women and girls in Egypt. 2000. 55% of daughters were circumcised by a medical professional.5 anFemale Genital Mutilationprevalence of 97% using the clitoridectomy.H. Trenton. and the Egyptians. Bibliobazaar. where only 18% of their mothers were circumcised this way. 3 Turshen.3 In Egypt. In the 1996 Demographic and Health Survey. The Romans and Russians also utilized Female Genital Mutilationas a technique to control women and ensure virginity. UK: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd. Meredeth. 2005. Female circumcision is still a brutally painful process but when done by a medical professional it is much safer. E.5 In such ancient times. circumcision is often viewed as a girls right of passage to her womanhood.

there are also social pressures. Female Genital Mutilation. In his book ³Female Genital Mutilation. the circumcision of women becomes a key element in conforming to 6 Momoh. 8.1% give cleanliness as the reason. 3.9% believe it will bring better marriage prospects. ³58.1% believe it will preserve virginity. a woman must hold her virginity in order for her to be a worthy member of society. 2005. a tradition that is frequently viewed as barbaric and inhumane.8% say it is better for the husband. UK: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd.6% believe it will prevent adultery. 7 . 36. Perceptions ofFemale Genital Mutilation in Egypt and around the World In a progressively interdependent world.9% give other reasons. where it is reported that 97% of the women are circumcised.´ Comfort Momoh reports that the Greek physicians who visited Egypt explained that the purpose of Female Genital Mutilationwas to reduce the sexual desires of women that was thought to be caused by the friction of their clitoris rubbing on their clothing. still today in many cultures.´7 Tradition places first among reasons that women give for their practice of Female Genital Mutilation. Comfort. New Haven: Yale University Press. Most reason Female Genital Mutilationas being part of a tradition in Egypt. it is important to explore the rationale of those who practice Female Genital Mutilation.8% believe it is required by religion. 9.psychosexual. making reference to their ancestors and the importance to follow their example. and 5. 30. and sociological. 3. Abington. 5.6The rationale used to explain Female Genital Mutilationin Egypt varies. In a community like Egypt. hygienic and aesthetic rationales that can be used to explain this practice. The Changing Customs of the Riverain Sudan.3% report that is a good tradition.6 and honor was of extreme value. Sudan Notes and Records 45: 12-27. While this is true. Pg 10 El Zanati. religious.

In Egypt. UK: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd. it is a representation of who they are. Pg 10 9 . is used to teach girls their duties as a mother and wife. It is of importance to note that in almost all known civilizations histories. the clitoris is considered ugly. neighbors. it is believed that having intercourse with women who are circumcised increases male sexual pleasure. The reason for the existence of Female Genital Mutilationtoday cannot be fully attributed to one particular culture or religion. Female Genital Mutilationhas been practiced in various forms. The clitoris is viewed as a threat to the male penis and is believed to cause a woman to have an ³over-sexed´ nature that would tempt her and cause her to lose her virginity and virtue. People fear being judged by their family. and friends and want their daughters to fit in with other girls in the community and grow into women who are fit for marriage. Comfort. marking a female¶s transition from girl to woman.8The ceremony of Female Genital Mutilation. 2005. view the circumcision of young girls as a way of upholding their societies by continuing tradition. Older women in Egypt. as well as the Sudan.7 society and women having the acceptance of their community. Abington. it is believed that Islam adopted the clitoridectomy procedure at the conquest of Egypt in 742 AD. Many explanations for the reason Female Genital Mutilationis practiced can be attributed to myth or medical discredit. Female Genital Mutilation. In some societies. and the principles they hold of upmost importance. where they come from. and with this negative connotation a woman¶s natural beauty and sexuality is lost. Female Genital Mutilationbeing a prerequisite for this.9 Religion plays a role in the practice of Female Genital Mutilationin Egypt. as well as other Female Genital Mutilationcommunities. Female Genital Mutilationis not 8 ibid Pg 6 Momoh.

Jews. they have no foreskin that would harbor dirtiness. Male and female circumcision: medical. expresses his disbelief of female circumcisions as a prevention of diseases and an up keeping of girls¶ health. 1999. Fatwa is a religious opinion of an Islamic scholar based on Islamic Law.. He also states that Female Genital Mutilationdoes not protect a women¶s honor because if it were so it would be stated as an obligation.Hodges Frederick Mansfield. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. explains in her book ³Female Circumcision and the Politics of Knowledge. CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. 2005. and Muslims. Depending on which sect of Islam.´ and makrumah is translated into a ³meritorious action or 10 11 ibid Pg 10 Nnaemeka. Inc. Pg 147 . There is a hadith. Chairman of the Fatwa Committee in AlAzhar.´12Sunnah means something that ³conforms to the tradition of Muhammad himself. Egypt. Pg 22 12 Denniston George C. and ethical considerations in Pediatric Practice. fatwa may be binding or non-binding. African Women in Imperialist Discourses. African Women in Imperialist Discourses´ that all of her schoolmates were circumcised: Christians. which says ³Circumcision is sunnah for men.10Medical Doctor ObiomoNnaemeka. its practice often shares a connection with Islam. Westport. who attended an English primary school in Menouf. legal. Although we have confirmed that Female Genital Mutilationis not solely attached to religion. considers fatwa non-binding. because unlike boys.8 practiced in most Islamic countries and is not connected to the Koran.11 There is a debate within the Muslim community about whether or not Female Genital Mutilationis an order from Allah. Female Circumcision and the Politics of Knowledge. Obioma. Egypt. and mukrumah for women. She goes on to say that in African an Asian countries women of various faiths undergo Female Genital Mutilation. (pg 156 denniston).Milos Marilyn Fayre. Hamrush. which are the narrations from the words and deeds of Islamic prophet Muhammad. where almost the entire population of Muslims are Sunni. Egypt.

lesbianism. there are approximately 21000 women with Female Genital Mutilationand 5500 that may be at risk. For instance. however. Surprisingly. The interest in Female Genital Mutilationat the European Union policy level has increased. In the United Kingdom. Yemen and Oman. as recent as the 1950s. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Female Genital Mutilationis disgraced by the western world. 86000 first generation immigrant refugee women and girls have undergone Female Genital Mutilation. Australia. physicians in the United Kingdom and the United States performed Female Genital Mutilationto ³¶treat¶ hysteria. however. masturbation and other so-called µfemale deviations. there has Denniston George C. Female Genital Mutilation: a guide to laws and policies worldwide. legal.¶´14 The practice has also been performed in countries in Asia and the Middle East. Sri Lanka. in France.´ meaning that circumcision is a good to do but not obligatory. Male and female circumcision: medical. This definition of Sunnah and makrumah provided can be interpreted differently. There are those who see Female Genital Mutilationas an Islamic duty even though it is not explicitly stated. Canada. In Germany..13 Female Genital Mutilationis not limited to one particular world region. and ethical considerations in Pediatric Practice.Milos Marilyn Fayre. as well as Kenya and Somalia. This mention of Female Genital Mutilationin the hadith may be interpreted as a suggestion rather than an obligation. Toubia Nahid. Pg 147 14 Rahman Anika.9 noble deed. 2000. as most religious texts and narrations can. yet there are people living amongst those who experience this procedure. 4500 girls are estimated to be at risk to Female Genital Mutilationand there is an estimate of 13000 to 30000 women with Female Genital Mutilation. New York: Zed Books Ltd. most of these women come from Egypt. Pg 7 13 .Hodges Frederick Mansfield. 1999. and the United States there are many women immigrant communities who undergo Female Genital Mutilation. it exists in the International and National arena.RAINBO.this is not the opinion of all. such as India. In Europe.Center for Reproductive Law & Policy.

Center for Reproductive Law & Policy. 4. 2000. gain the role of feeling most sexual stimulation. chronic pelvic infections. and cognition being disrupted after having the procedure. stones in the urethra or bladder. holding negative influence on their self-esteem and identity.RAINBO. sleep. Comfort. mood.´17 Girls have complained of their eating habits. excessive growth of scar tissue or cysts at the site of the cutting. and resentment. the severity and longevity of these complications vary. New York: Zed Books Ltd. Many girls often repress extreme feelings of anger. inflammation and other complications. The complications that Female Genital Mutilationbrings might contradict a woman¶s fertility and ability to easily bear children. Depending on which type of Female Genital Mutilationprocedure a woman has undergone. Women may have infection. Toubia Nahid. 2005. for example the breasts. betrayal. Abington. The aftermath of these types of Female Genital Mutilationcan cause severe ³urinary tract infection. Female Genital Mutilation: a guide to laws and policies worldwide. UK: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd.16 Women who undergo excision or infibulation usually suffer from the worst complications. trauma from the extreme pain.10 yet to be any enforcement applicable to all EU members. Pg 73-74 16 Rahman Anika. Female Genital Mutilation. male and family relations Women who are circumcised face both physical and psychological distress and pain. other parts of the female body. an asset 15 Momoh. When such an unnatural procedure is done on the genitals.15 It appears that there is not enough action being taken by the western world concerning the issue of Female Genital Mutilation. Pg 9 17 ibid pg 8 . and fistulae (holes or tunnels) between the bladder and the vagina or between the rectum and vagina. The Role ofFemale Genital Mutilation in female. Female Genital Mutilationcan cause severe pain and bleeding right away.

African Women's Health. but because they love and care for them. very few denied how painful the procedure was.19 Egypt is a patriarchal society. as heads of the family. their support in the extinction of Female Genital Mutilationis of value and whatever small progress made will continue to help the cause. If defibulation is not done. Unfortunately. Men. Even if women recognize that they are in control of their bodies andunderstand the negative effects of Female Genital Mutilation. Trenton. However. A tightly infibulated woman has to be ³defibulated. such as Egypt. as the most important capability of a woman.18 In her book ³African Women¶s Health. Meredeth. are capable of overseeing all family decisions including whether or not their daughters undergo Female Genital Mutilation. the involvement and cooperation of men and women together is necessary for any change to occur. it is believed by some that the presence of the clitoris could threaten the life of the baby during delivery. both the mother and the child¶s lives are put at risk. 18 19 ibid Pg 9 Turshen. NJ: Africa World Press.11 considered by many countries that practice Female Genital Mutilation. 82% of the women questioned in the 1996 Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey said that they would submit their daughters to the same painful procedure. 2000. not because they want their daughters to feel pain.´ MeredethTurshen writes that in indepth interviews with women who experienced Female Genital Mutilation. Inc. the men are more likely to be influential in setting trends and changing the tradition of Female Genital Mutilationif they are made aware and convinced that the issue is a pressing problem. Therefore. Despitewomen¶s subordinate role in Egyptian society.´ or cut open in order for her to deliver her children. . their lack of authority limits their ability to make advancements on the issue.

however it is not.20 The power relations between man and woman is linked to their genitals and the practice of Female Genital Mutilationshatters this equality. When the vagina is mutilated by Female Genital Mutilationprocedures. 5. legal. In parts of the Egyptian countryside. Male and female circumcision: medical... Male and female circumcision: medical. and ethical considerations in Pediatric Practice. Laying the Practice to Rest When analyzing the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. 1999.Hodges Frederick Mansfield. and ethical considerations in Pediatric Practice.Hodges Frederick Mansfield. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. sexual relations are distorted and the female capacity to gain pleasure during sexual intercourse is damaged. Pg 158 .21 Some consider circumcision a necessity in order to pray and fulfill pilgrimage. 1999.Milos Marilyn Fayre. the marriage of an uncircumcised Muslim may be regarded as invalid. even claiming that this is a ³cure´ for their mutilated genitals. the person who practices female circumcision also delivers a certificate that indicates a female¶s eligibility for marriage. legal.12 There is a link between female circumcision and what is known as the ³hashish plague´ in Egypt. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Couples will often turn to the drug narcotic hashish as a way to increase arousal during sexual intercourse. Will society condemn Female Genital Mutilationendorsing human rights before actual legislation is made? If Denniston George C. There are often consequences for those who refuse to conform to societies standards and avoid Female Genital Mutilation. it is important to question it within the human rights framework.Milos Marilyn Fayre. Pg 154 20 21 Denniston George C.

Legal documents such as the Progamme of Action of the Cairo Conference and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action call for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation. Although the practice may be regarded as a tradition. I feel that the consequences of the procedure surpass our duty to allow different cultures the right to their own traditions. Toubia Nahid. This is very important because the majority of countries in which Female Genital Mutilationis practiced are a part of these regional treaties and they have an obligation to follow them. Pgs 18-22 . which entail laws that protect the rights of women and girls. they do serve as a platform for legislating Female Genital Mutilationa practice that curtails the rights of women.Center for Reproductive Law & Policy. It is difficult to answer these questions. 2000. will they abide to international treaties and be properly enforced? Do we as an international community have the right to deny cultures of their traditions? Does the attempt to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilationviolate the right of religious freedom? These troubling questions are what make the topic of Female Genital Mutilationa very upsetting human rights issue to be dealt with.RAINBO. but I believe that the Female Genital Mutilation that women experience worldwide is a huge human rights violation. in my opinion.22 Female Circumcision has been part of Egyptian history for more than 2000 years. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. are some of the many treaties that include regional treaties. Although many of these documents do not explicitly mention Female Genital Mutilation. a violation of humanity. and the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. In 1959 a committee was formed to investigate Female Genital 22 Rahman Anika. the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Female Genital Mutilation: a guide to laws and policies worldwide. New York: Zed Books Ltd. Being aware of the massive percentage of female citizens who undergo mutilation and not trying to end it is.13 laws that ban Female Genital Mutilationdo become established.

who have stronger and more influential women¶s groups thusbeginning to recognize Female Genital Mutilationas a violation of women¶s rights. A. April 2003. It has been determined that girls today are 10% less likely to be circumcised than their mothers. progression towards the elimination of the practice becomes more hopeful. there are very few reports made by doctors who have treated women who have come to them with Female Genital Mutilationcomplications that were done illegally.F.H.24 Attempts have been made to decrease the practice of Female Genital Mutilationby promoting the awareness of health risks that come along with female circumcision. Twenty years later the issue of Female Genital Mutilation was addressed once again and it was concluded that a physician could only perform the procedure. E. the targeting of those who do the circumcisions. condemning the practice. Nigeria and Burkina Faso. Toubia N. London. and the study and understanding of the practice as a ³rite of passage´.Pgs 253-255 . Egypt is amongst other countries such as Kenya.14 Mutilationin Egypt. ³Female Genital Mutilation: have we made progress?´ International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.23 Actions taken to put an end to the practice of Female Genital Mutilationhas increased in the past twenty years. Using Human Rights to Change Tradition. UK. it was ³suggested´ that the consent of a physician be necessary and that partial clitoridectomy be the only form of Female Genital Mutilation. As we begin to understand the importance of theFemale Genital Mutilationpractice in Egyptian culture. along with the sanctity of women and their virginity. 2002. It is important to educate people of how severe the 23 Packer Corinne A. 24 Sharief. it is better than no progress at all. Following this investigation. Utrecht: Utrecht University Institute for Legal Studies. in the effort to find a substitution for it in Egyptian culture. However. In 1996 Egypt issued religious orders to ban the practice of Female Genital Mutilationin health facilities and health workers. Although the numbers show that little progress has been made.

then eventually.15 problem of Female Genital Mutilationis worldwide. this practice will be significantly decreased. I believe. If we continue to try and understand the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. and deal with the issue in a respectful and educated manner. .