Female genital mutilation becomes less common in Egypt

Wendy Zukerman

After a decade of failed attempts to stop female genital mutilation (FGM) – or female circumcision – in Egypt, the practice is finally becoming less common.

In 1996 the Egyptian government banned FGM in hospitals – but because licensed practitioners were still allowed to perform the surgery elsewhere, it continued. A 2006 survey of 3730 Egyptian girls, conducted by Mohamed Bedaiwy of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio and colleagues, found that 85 per cent of the girls had been subjected to FGM since the ban. In June 2007, the government banned FGM altogether.

To see if the new law has made a difference, Salah Rasheed at Sohag University in Egypt, a member of Bedaiwy’s team, asked 4150 girls and women aged between 5 and 25 years if and when they had undergone FGM. Interviewing them between 2008 and 2010, he found that, overall, 89 per cent of the females had been subjected to FGM in their lifetime, with the procedure typically being conducted on girls of 8. Annual rates seemed to have dropped following the complete ban, however: around 11.5 per cent had undergone the procedure in 2005, but the proportion dropped to 8 per cent for 2007 and 7.7 per cent in 2009 – the latest year considered in the survey.

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