Thursday marks the eleventh International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a United Nations-sponsored celebration.
Egypt is among the countries with a high prevalence of FGM, but in a joint press statement released in October 2013, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Islamic Centre for Population Studies and Research of Al-Azhar University said that the practice is “slowly decreasing” in Egypt. Its prevalence has fallen to 74% for girls aged between 15 and 17 in 2008 as opposed to 76% in 2005.
An Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2005 stated that over 95% of Egyptian women had been circumcised, reported Reuters. The survey indicated that poor families living in rural areas in Upper Egypt are more prone to the practice. FGM is widespread among both Muslim and Christian girls.
In June 2007, the Egyptian government outlawed the practice of FGM after an 11-year-old school girl died in a private clinic in Minya while undergoing the operation.
Article 240 of the Egyptian Penal Code states: “Whoever causes a wound or a beating to another which results in cutting or separating an organ that loses its utility… shall be punished by a three-to-five-year imprisonment.”
In 2008, an article was introduced to the Penal Code, criminalising the practice.
Law 242 states that committing FGM is a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to two years or a fine of at least EGP 5,000. Despite the Supreme Constitutional Court rejecting a lawsuit calling for nullifying the law, calls for legalising female circumcision continue.
In April 2012, residents of a village in Minya reported witnessing a medical convoy, organised by the ruling Freedom and Justice party (FJP), conducting FGM on female residents in the area.
The FJP denied the accusation and said there was no evidence of such a convoy, contradicting a brochure published by state-run Al-Ahram. Additionally, a former Salafi MP submitted a draft law to the 2012 parliament before its dissolution to legalise the practice.
In June 2013, a 13-year-old girl died while undergoing FGM in a private clinic in Daqahleya. The girl’s family accused the doctor who conducted the surgery of killing their daughter.
In their joint statement, UNICEF and Al-Azhar University’s International Islamic Centre stressed the need for the state’s collective efforts to accelerate and sustain the elimination of FGM in Egypt.
UNICEF figures put the number of females who have undergone some form of FGM or circumcision worldwide at over 125 million, mostly centred in Africa and the Middle East. The practice threatens an additional 30 million girls in the coming decade.