FGM: The controversial issue with no solution in sight

Sunday January 7, 2018
By: Nagwan El-Deeb

AfricaGenMult

It is shocking to learn that 87 percent of girls in Egypt are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), despite the efforts made by the government to fight this brutal violation of women’s bodies. A statistical report published in February 2016, ahead of the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, stated that ‘’200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in 30 countries; half of which live in only 3 countries – Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia’’.

Egypt has one of the highest rates of FGM both globally and within the region. The decrease in the rate of FGM has remained minimal and unsatisfactory in spite of a legal ban on all forms of female genital cutting, issued in 2007 by the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population. The ban was also supported by the Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa and Pope Shenoudah III, the head of the Coptic Church.

According to the latest UNICEF report on FGM in Egypt, published in 2015 and updated in February 2016; 87 percent of girls and women aged 15-49 have undergone FGM, ranking Egypt number 6 amongst African countries. According to the same report, 54 percent of girls and women aged 15-49 and 59 percent of boys and men aged 15-49 think the practice should continue. It is worth noting that the prevalence rates were higher among poorer areas, as well as less educated and rural ones.

Determining the magnitude of FGM and the associated medical, psychological and psychosexual impacts is undoubtedly essential to eliminating the practice. The potential physical complications resulting from the procedure include: severe pain, bleeding that may lead to death, incontinence, infections, sexual and psychosexual problems, primary infertility and difficult labour. In addition, the unsanitary operating conditions and use of the same instruments on different girls without sterilization can significantly contribute to the spread of HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

The procedure also has severe psychological effects on the victims. Girls who had undergone the procedure experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, feelings of incompleteness, fear, inferiority and suppression. They also suffer from an increased risk of psychiatric and psychosomatic diseases.

It is not only horrifying that the practice is performed every day in Egypt, but also that half of the population believes it should continue. The reason they support it is because of the cultural conviction that women’s sexuality needs to be controlled. Thus, FGM is the way to ensure virginity before marriage and fidelity afterwards.

 The idea that there’s a justification for exposing girls and woman to these risks and subjecting them to a lifetime of trauma is profoundly disturbing. Once more, we’re faced with a dire need for a collective change of mentality in order for the efforts to be truly impactful.

The plurality and complexity of arguments that support and drive the practice of FGM should be wisely considered when implementing an opposing action. Correspondingly, a collaborative approach is needed that involves religious leaders, health professionals, educationalists and non-governmental organizations, to properly and effectively tackle FGM; a practice which remains a controversial social taboo.

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