FGM stands for female genital mutilation, and it is largely a prominent but not frequently talked about the subject. Female genital mutilation is the partial or total removal of the outer female genitalia for non-medical reasons. The practice is found mainly in Africa, and one of the counties where FGM is most prevalent in Egypt. In countries like Egypt, the best way to eradicate the practice is by educating the families, especially people of influential professions, on the injustice and health defects of FGM.
FGM is an extremely scary problem, due to its deep roots in some of these countries’ cultures. To Westerners, the practice itself is a form of child abuse and gender-based violence, but in Islamic cultures, the practice is looked at as an initiation into womanhood and a measure to minimize female adultery. FGM is usually performed on young girls at or before they reach puberty and young women who are forced by their future husbands to have the operation before they are married. It has been performed for over 2,000 years and today there are over 200 million girls and women alive who have endured the procedure.
In recent years people in these areas have become more aware of the injustice of FGM, but the rate of change is extremely low. It is hard for a family to not have their child undergo FGM, due to the social pressure from their communities, and a large portion of the population is still unaware of the practice’s injustice. A prominent example of this slow change is Egypt.
Although the anti-FGM movement has grown, and by 2008 the practice was completely made illegal in Egypt, the problem overall is not being wildly dealt with by the government. Today, Egypt has one of the greatest number of women and girls who have suffered FGM of any country in the world. The rate is so large that, Jaime Nadal, the UN Population Fund’s (UNFPA) representative in Cairo said ““…if we were able to eradicate FGM in Egypt, we could get rid of one-fourth of the cases worldwide…”” Out of the population of 95 million people, 87.2% of all women ages 15 to 49 experienced FGM.
The most efficient way to exterminate the practice is educating all people about the negative effects of FGM. While most Egyptians have heard of the practice, knowledge, and understanding of the issues surrounding FGM and it’s dangers are poor. Egypt has an education problem, and although basic education is free, a substantial section of the population from poorer rural areas are uneducated. With this lack of education, most of the population relies on tradition, and so the practice of FGM persists.
As urgent as education programs is the need for training community officials, law enforcement officers, justice agents, religious leaders, and medical professionals. These professions hold far more power socially and can have a larger impact on their community around views of FGM; this especially goes for religious leaders and medical professionals.
A considerable contributor to the continuation of FGM in Egypt is the belief that it is required by religious law. With 90% of Egypt’s population being Muslim and 10% being Christian, religious leaders could have a large impact on change. As for medical professionals, in recent years, the practice of FGM in Egypt has shifted from being preformed by traditional practitioners towards health professionals. Currently, 78.4% of all incidences of FGM are carried out by a health professional, and most professionals lack knowledge about the functions of female genitalia, and about the practice of FGM as a whole.
Currently, there are many international and national NGOs working in Egypt and throughout Africa to educate and provide support for the people of these countries on the practice of FGM. One such NGO is Women for Women International, which supports the most marginalized women in conflicted and war-torn countries. The NGO has recently joined a global partnership with other organizations to start a program to end FGM in Africa by 2030. The program was launched in September of 2019. The first step to eliminating the unsafe practice of FGM in Islamic countries like Egypt, would be by making the people, especially medical professionals, aware of the negative consequences of the procedure.