Conflict & Justice

Egypt bans female circumcision

This woman works as a cleaning lady in Cairo and all the girls in her small Egyptian town were circumcised before reaching puberty. She says she was circumcised when she was eight. The vast majority of Egyptian women are circumcised and the practice is viewed as a way to protect family honor. Many families fear they won't be able to find husbands for their daughters if they're not circumcised. Egypt's Health Ministry banned circumcision in 1996 but the ban had loopholes so the practice continued. Then last year a girl died while being circumcised. The story made headlines. This Egyptian official says the girl's death shocked the public and reversed discourse on circumcisions. Still opposition to the ban, such as that from the Muslim Brotherhood political opposition, runs high. They paint it as an imposition of Western values and is an attack on Muslim tradition. The government official from earlier says FGM may be a tradition, but it has nothing to do with Islam. In fact Egypt's highest religious authorities have spoken out against FGM. Now Egypt joins a list of more than 15 African countries that have banned FGM. But experts say those bans are uniformly enforced. This analyst says legislation is important, but it alone is not enough, and education and enforcement is also needed. So FGM advocates have been lobbying governments and doctors to build a consensus against the practice. There have been TV commercials and billboard ads to educate, and they're having some success. Teenage circumcisions continue to drop.

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