WOMENAID INTERNATIONAL

EGYPT BREAKS WITH TRADITION


The 1996 Demographic and Health Survey in Egypt revealed that female circumcision is virtually universal among women, with 97% between the ages 15-49 having been circumcised. Among survey respondents with one or more living daughters, 87% report that at least one daughter has already been circumcised or that they intend to have the daughter circumcised in the future. The median age at circumcision is 9 - 8 years of age.

Most circumcision takes place at home. Increasingly, circumcisions on girls are being performed by doctors. Even so, women report that about one-third of circumcisions on their daughters were performed by dayas (traditional birth attendants). Among the possible side effects of these medically unnecessary procedures are haemorrhage, shock, infection and death.

The results suggest that abolishing this practice will be challenging. More that 80% of women support the continuation of circumcision. 74% believe that husbands prefer circumcised women and 72% erroneously believe circumcision is a religious tradition. Relatively few women recognise the negative consequences of circumcision, such as reduced sexual satisfaction (29%), possible death (24%), and higher risk of problems in childbirth (5%).

In 1996, Dr. Ismail Salam, the Minister of Health and Population, issued an order banning female circumcision (female genital mutilation) in state hospitals. In 1997, a group of Egyptian doctors challenged this order in the courts.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) reacted strongly to this challenge and its Secretary-General, Ingar Grueggemann, wrote to the Egyptian Prime Minister saying: 

"IPPF believes female genital mutilation deserves special consideration as it is an assault on the integrity of the person and compromises the health of young infants, adolescents and women on whom it is performed."

"The Federation is also concerned about the violation of medical ethics posed by this practice and the profound health costs to society generated by FGM."

Source: People & the Planet, Vol.6, No1, 1997.

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