Monday, August 11, 2008

Female Circumcision

A number of articles have appeared reporting on the decrease in female circumcision in Egypt. And the reversal is coming from women who have undergone the process themselves.

From The State:
"In this small Nile River farming village, Maha Mohammed has started to doubt whether she should circumcise her two daughters.

A year ago, she had few qualms about female genital mutilation, the practice of cutting a girl's clitoris and sometimes other genitalia. She herself was cut two decades ago, and she fears her daughters will not find husbands otherwise.

But Mohammed also has heard that circumcision can be medically risky and emotionally painful. And a strong-willed neighbor, another woman, has been dropping by her house regularly to persuade her to say no.

"I hear that girls suffer not just physically but psychologically," the 31-year-old Mohammed said. "But I am afraid. I don't want my daughters to have uncontrollable demands for sex."

Such doubts are significant. With vigorous grass-roots campaigns and the passage of tough laws against circumcision, Egypt seems to be making a dent in this deeply ingrained practice, thousands of years old. The number of young girls circumcised is now steadily declining in a country where an estimated 96 percent of married Egyptian women have had their genitals cut.

The most recent comprehensive study predicts about 63 percent of Egyptian girls 9 years old and under will be circumcised over the next decade. The numbers are lower in urban areas like Cairo - about 40 percent - but higher for rural areas in the south - about 78 percent, the government's 2005 demographic and health survey predicts.

The lower circumcision rate in urban areas is attributed to higher income and education levels and greater access to information. But in the villages along the Nile, where the rate is highest, a grass-roots effort is under way to bring information straight to people's homes.

But when village women do go public, the results are astonishing. Of some 3,000 families targeted over the past few years in several nearby villages, more than half say they have abandoned the practice, nearly 800 are undecided and fewer than 500 say they will continue to circumcise their daughters."

From the Miami Herald:
"The key is convincing villages that stopping circumcision is an Egyptian idea -- not one imported by international aid groups or Western governments, Fouad said. The group also promotes homegrown activities such as community plays, discussions with local doctors and religious debates.

Along with local groups taking action, Egypt's government has also been discouraging the practice in recent years. But activists stress that laws alone aren't enough.

Many women fear potential husbands will reject daughters as impure or immoral. Medical rumors -- including that circumcision is the only way to control a girl's sexual desires -- are rampant. Others believe that abandoning the practice is caving to Western pressures to change their society."

The article was also featured in:
Fox News ; the Star Tribune ; MSNBC ; USA Today ; Pravda ; and Chicago Sun-Times.

From Independent Online (SA):
"An estimated 70 million girls and women in 27 African and Middle Eastern countries have been "circumcised", according to Unicef.

Countries where more than 50 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 49 are mutilated include: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan (north).

Countries where 10-50 percent of females aged 15 to 49 are mutilated include: Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Yemen."

Even the doyen of crime-writing, Ruth Rendell has taken a stand:
From the Guardian:
"Lady Rendell, a long-term campaigner against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), spoke out as the police prepared to announce a new initiative against it later this week.

She said that it would be classified "not as a quaint custom but as child cruelty, as child abuse, because that's what it is".

"Even if it may be committed without child abuse or cruelty in mind, that's what it is. I think that if we can persuade the Home Office to do more when the police are doing so much, I see that at last there has been a breakthrough and things are going to change. I hope so."

Rendell helped introduce tough new laws in 2004 that made it an offence to send a child abroad for the procedure, banned in the UK since 1985.

Tens of thousands of young girls in this country are believed to be at risk of FGM, but the peer conceded cultural sensitivities made it difficult to tackle.

Women who have undergone female genital mutilation are twice as likely to die in childbirth and four times more likely to give birth to a stillborn child, experts say.

Workers in the sector say it is typically carried out on girls aged between four and 13, but can sometimes be inflicted on newborn babies or on young women before marriage or pregnancy."

Further reading:
Female Genital Mutilation


Adil said...

well I heard lot about this inhuman practice..even I heard it had been practiced in the muslim communities most of the times..
Nice Blog!

Ziyena said...

Love the past, but thank god for the present! Nice piece ...


Melisende said...

Thanks for the comments.

I too had heard much about this practice but mostly from sensationalised pieces in the news. It is a very delicate subject matter to tackle head on - and one I, for one, am in no way an expert.

However, this is an age old custom - though one would hesitate to attribute it to one religious group over another - this would definitely be an area in which further study is needed.

I do hope that this practice will continue to decline - though I can hear the faint rumblings from the male community - the practice of male circumcision does not seem to leave the same effects. Though having said that I am sure there is a minority that do fall into this category.

A very different story came out of Africa this week regarding men queuing up to be circumcised in a attempt to control HIV. A curious method of prevention.

Anonymous said...

All circumcision, both male and female, is genital mutilation. A lot of people are surprised and outraged to hear about female circumcision because they are not used to it and consider it barbaric--which it is. But most won't even talk about male circumcision which is just as barbaric. There is no basis for male circumcision from the Quran--it is not even mentioned in the Quran. Everything else--like sayings of the prophet, hadith, is made up (yes please do your research) and has no basis in Islam. So circumcision, both male and female, has no basis in religion either. True religion is logical and logic tells you God would not tell you to cut-off/mutilate your private parts for religion. Religion is about knowing/worshiping God, being honest, truthful and doing good deeds. When it comes to medical benifits--there are none either. It is simply a traditional practice. God did not design the human incorrectly and tell us (the human) to correct it at birth--how absurd! Circumcision is the most widely and absurd human practice adobted in the name of religion. Parents keep doing it to new-born kids without asking WHY, WHY?

sexy sheer lingerie said...

Is logical that for people in the West this action we deem brutal .. I do not agree with the circumcision of women or man .. so either by religion!

Anonymous said...

I feel that if the people or the parent wants circumcision then let them do it. No one else has to answer to that but them. Who are we to determine if another person can alter their body or not? We are not God, they will not have to answer to us when the time is here. Some people feel that it is right, just like people don't think that they are altering their bodies with tattoos, piercing, breast reductions, and all types of other things. I can't tell them that they are wrong for that because I'm not in the position. I don't think that we are to be judging each other either.
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