« | »

Egyptians Still Want Female Genital Mutilation

From those defenders of the faith at the New York Times:

Egyptian health care workers and nursing students observe a minute of silence following the death of a 13 year-old girl during an operation to remove her clitoris.

In Egypt, a Rising Push Against Genital Cutting

By MICHAEL SLACKMAN

KAFR AL MANSHI ABOU HAMAR, Egypt — The men in this poor farming community were seething. A 13-year-old girl was brought to a doctor’s office to have her clitoris removed, a surgery considered necessary here to preserve chastity and honor.

The girl died, but that was not the source of the outrage. After her death, the government shut down the clinic, and that got everyone stirred up.

“They will not stop us,” shouted Saad Yehia, a tea shop owner along the main street. “We support circumcision!” he shouted over and over.

“Even if the state doesn’t like it, we will circumcise the girls,” shouted Fahmy Ezzeddin Shaweesh, an elder in the village.

Circumcision, as supporters call it, or female genital mutilation, as opponents refer to it, was suddenly a ferocious focus of debate in Egypt this summer. A nationwide campaign to stop the practice has become one of the most powerful social movements in Egypt in decades, uniting an unlikely alliance of government forces, official religious leaders and street-level activists.

Though Egypt’s Health Ministry ordered an end to the practice in 1996, it allowed exceptions in cases of emergency, a loophole critics describe as so wide that it effectively rendered the ban meaningless. But now the government is trying to force a comprehensive ban.

Not only was it unusual for the government to shut down the clinic, but the health minister has also issued a decree banning health care workers— or anyone — from conducting the procedure for any reason.

Beyond that, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also issued a booklet explaining why the practice was not called for in Islam; Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, declared it haram, or prohibited by Islam; Egypt’s highest religious official, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, called it harmful; television advertisements have been shown on state channels to discourage it; and a national hot line was set up to answer the public’s questions about genital cutting.

But as the men in this village demonstrated, widespread social change in Egypt comes slowly, very slowly. This country is conservative, religious and, for many, guided largely by traditions, even when those traditions do not adhere to the tenets of their faith, be it Christianity or Islam.

For centuries Egyptian girls, usually between the ages of 7 and 13, have been taken to have the procedure done, sometimes by a doctor, sometimes by a barber or whoever else in the village would do it.

As recently as 2005, a government health survey showed that 96 percent of the thousands of married, divorced or widowed women interviewed said they had undergone the procedure — a figure that astounds even many Egyptians.

In the language of the survey, “The practice of female circumcision is virtually universal among women of reproductive age in Egypt.” …

Dr. Nasr el-Sayyid, assistant to the minister of health, said there had already been a drop in urban areas, along with an aggressive effort in more than 100 villages, mostly in the south, to curb the practice. “Our plan and program over the next two years is aiming to take it down 20 percent nationwide,” he said.

The challenge, however, rests in persuading people that their grandparents, parents and they themselves have harmed their daughters. Moreover, advocates must convince a skeptical public that men will marry a woman who has not undergone the procedure and that circumcision is not necessary to preserve family honor. It is a challenge to get men to give up some of their control over women…

But over time, they enlisted the aid of Islamic scholars and health care workers, hoping to disperse misconceptions — like the idea that cutting off the clitoris prevents homosexuality — and relate to people’s lives…

Yes, surely the Islamic scholars are a lot of help. (As any check on any “Ask The Imam” query will reveal.)

But where are the feminists? Where are the professional do-gooders?

How is it possible that this has been allowed to go on for centuries?

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, September 20th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

6 Responses to “Egyptians Still Want Female Genital Mutilation”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.


« Front Page | To Top
« | »