Fighting Female Genital Mutilation

Nov 18, 2014

Image credit: Rachel Levit

By Mona Eltahawy

I am a 47-year-old Egyptian woman. And I am among the fortunate few of my countrywomen whose genitals have not been cut in the name of “purity” and the control of our sexuality.

Egyptian government figures put the rate of female genital mutilation among women ages 15 to 49 at 91 percent. Among teenagers 15 to 17, it is 74 percent. Unicef estimates that of the 125 million women worldwide who have undergone genital cutting in the 29 countries where it is most prevalent — mostly in Africa and the Middle East — one in five lives in Egypt.

Other than the tireless Egyptian activists who for years have fought to eradicate it, very few talk about a practice that brings nothing but harm to so many girls and women. In her books, the feminist Nawal El Saadawi has long documented her own cutting at the age of 6 and her tenacious campaign against a practice that is carried out by both Muslims and Christians in Egypt. But why aren’t other prominent women speaking out by sharing their own experience of surviving genital cutting? The silence comes at a great cost.

Many international treaties designate female genital mutilation a violation of the human rights of girls and women. On Oct. 30, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, announced a global campaign to end it within a generation.

Egypt first banned the practice in 1959, and then permitted it again in some forms. When Egypt hosted the 1994 United Nations Population Conference, it was embarrassed by a CNN report that showed a cutting procedure, despite official claims that it was no longer practiced. The government then allowed “medical” genital cutting — in which the procedure is carried out in a medical environment or by a medical professional — until 2008, when a universal ban was imposed after a 12-year-old girl died the previous year during a procedure in a clinic.

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5 comments on “Fighting Female Genital Mutilation

  • 1
    aquilacane says:

    It’s only bad if it really hurts. Jews, carry on cutting up your boys. I am against genital mutilation; I don’t give a damn what your sex is.

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  • All Genital mutilation is a crime against humanity! The reduced sexual pleasure that is experienced as a result of GM will hopefully reduce sexual activity in those groups that still do it to a point where they go extinct!

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  • Fear of female sexuality and rejection…. why religions are male-dominated and modern day inequality persists. Religious belief coupled with ignorance has established that everything about the female is dubious beginning with the prehistoric taboos surrounding the perceived uncleanliness of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and childbirth, sexual attractiveness, sexual desire, laced with an overwhelming fear of female rejection. This fear and ignorance has been the inspiration for men to feel they have to dominate women, trap them, beat them, disable them, enslave them, exclude them and disfigure their genitalia.
    Vestiges of this innate fear has been the inspiration for the catholic church to exclude women from the priesthood, the virgin mary myth (the only kind of woman clean enough to give birth to a son of god) islam, to demand that women wear sacks (to save men from sinful behavior), the heavenly offer of willing virgins (any other kind of female would be unclean and the allure of total domination), child brides (less likely to be unclean and total submission) the burning of ‘witches’ (those who rebel against male domination, if you can’t dominate, kill), and, even in ‘advanced’ societies, the ambiguity of rape and domestic violence laws, educational inequality and exclusion, and pay inequity.
    Women have the daunting task of freeing men from these taboos, myths, fears and ignorance but the greatest advances will not be made within the gates of religious belief because that is where the problem originated, was written, and still exists. Change has to come from within women and without religion.

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