An estimated ninety percent of Egyptian women have been subjected to genital mutilation. But after a twelve-year-old Egyptian girl died undergoing the procedure, Egyptian heath minister Hatem al-Gabali announced that any practice of female genital mutilation "will be viewed as a violation of the law and all contraventions will be punished."
Egypt's state-appointed Grand Mufti condemned female genital mutilation, saying it is forbidden by Islam. The Grand Sheikh of Cairo's al-Azhar mosque, Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, previously described the practice as un-Islamic. And Coptic Pope Shenouda, the leader of Egypt's minority Christian community, said the Bible does not demand or mention female circumcision.
Egypt originally outlawed female genital mutilation in 1959, but subsequent decrees permitted some forms of the procedure. The practice involves cutting off part or all of the clitoris and other female genitalia, sometimes by a doctor but often by a relative or midwife. Side effects can be terrible, and include hemorrhage, shock, and sexual dysfunction and serious psychological or emotional distress.
Female genital mutilation is most prevalent in African countries, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan. Estimates of the number of women who have been subjected to this practice range as high as one-hundred thirty-million worldwide. And an estimated two-million girls are at risk each year.
Female genital mutilation is a harmful, traditional practice that threatens the health, basic rights and dignity of women. The United States is working for the total elimination of the practice through education, empowerment of women, and enforcement of laws.
A key strategy is for non-governmental organizations, women's groups, community leaders, and religious organizations to adopt culturally appropriate activities and reach out to all members of society, including men and boys. It is high time to eradicate this centuries-old violation of women and girls.