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FGM among Egyptian teenage girls drops by 27 percent Open in fullscreen

Nada Ramadan

FGM among Egyptian teenage girls drops by 27 percent

At least 200 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM [Lightrocket]

Date of publication: 7 February, 2016

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A UNICEF report has revealed that fewer Egyptian teenagers are being forced to suffer Female Genital Mutilation, but warned that progress was "insufficient" to keep up with population growth rates.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among Egyptian girls aged 15 to 19 has declined by a significant 27 percent in the past 30 years, a 2016 UNICEF report has found.

According to the report "Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern", FGM among teenage girls in Egypt dropped from 97 percent in 1985 to 70 percent in 2015.

The report, however, warned that the current progress was "insufficient" to keep up with increasing population growth rates.

"If trends continue, the number of girls and women undergoing FGM/C will rise significantly over the next 15 years," the report said.

Despite the progress made, mostly among younger Egyptian women, statistics from 2004-2015 indicate that 87 percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years in Egypt have undergone FGM.

At least 200 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM, the report said, with half of them living in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Of the 200 million victims, 44 million are girls aged 14 and younger.

In the 30 countries where the practice is most widespread, the majority of girls have undergone FGM before their fifth birthday.

"FGM violates the rights of girls and women," said UNICEF deputy executive director Geeta Rao Gupta.

"We must all accelerate efforts - governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents and families - to eliminate the practice," she added.

The tools used in genital mutilation can often be crude
[UNICEF/Holt]

The United Nations is working to end the practice of cutting women's genitalia by the target date of 2030, a goal set in its new development agenda that was adopted in September by all UN member-states.

Marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, Egypt's health minister pledged to eradicate the practice in the country by 2030, stressing the country's commitment to a national strategy that includes training doctors to advise families to stop FGM and explain why it is not a medical necessity.

Lack of accountability

In January 2015, an Egyptian court sentenced Dr Raslan Fadel to two years in prison for manslaughter after performing an FGM procedure that killed 13-year-old Soheir al-Batea in June 2013.

The unprecedented verdict marked a new victory for international and local human rights organisations in their fight against the practice.

However, the verdict was never implemented, and the convicted doctor remains free and continues to practice medicine at a public hospital.

Less than a month after the girl's death, human rights organisation Equality Now, which documents violence and discrimination against women, issued a call for action to enforce the anti-FGM law and ensure that Fadl was "thoroughly investigated and held accountable for all crimes he is found to have committed".

Small fines and the reluctance to make arrests clearly shows that Egypt... is not serious about ending FGM.
- Equality Now



The human rights organisation also called on the Egyptian government to live up to its domestic and international obligations by ensuring that healthcare providers were given comprehensive education and training on the health and human rights implications of FGM, and to refrain from performing any form of the practice.

In an update on 1 February 2015, Equality Now confirmed that Egyptian authorities had not yet arrested Fadl.

The organisation also documented another FGM case, where the father and aunt of 14-year-old Mouna received the "absolute minimum penalty"; a fine of 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($127).

"Small fines and the reluctance to make arrests clearly shows that Egypt... is not serious about ending FGM," the organisation said in its statement.

"Equality Now and our partners will continue to call for the Egyptian law to be strengthened and enforced on behalf of Soheir, Mouna and all the girls and women affected by this human rights violation."

A widespread practice

Despite being banned in 1996 and criminalised in 2008, with prison sentences ranging from three months to two years and a fine of up to EGP 5,000 ($638), FGM remains a widespread practice in Egypt.

Many Egyptian parents believe that FGM guarantees purity and chastity by quelling their girls' sexual desires, making them, as they claim, more attractive for marriage.

According to a 2015 study conducted by the Egyptian health ministry, almost nine in 10 women aged 15-49 had undergone the procedure.

The study found the practice was more prevalent among rural and uneducated women, while lower rates were observed among women living in urban areas and those with higher levels of wealth and education.

Many Egyptian parents believe that FGM guarantees purity and chastity by quelling their girls' sexual desires, making them, as they claim, more attractive for marriage

In addition, the study revealed that a large number of men and women believed FGM was tolerated by Islam.

However, Egypt's top Islamic authority has condemned the act as "un-Islamic" and even "barbaric".

In 2007, the Azhar Supreme Council for Islamic Research explained in a statement that the practice had no basis in the core Islamic Sharia or any of its partial provisions.

A 2013 UNICEF report found that Egypt had the world's highest number of FGM cases.

At that time, a total of 27.2 million girls and women had undergone the procedure in Egypt, and 77 percent of the cases were performed by medical professionals, according to the report.

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