Female genital mutilation: issues and impact
The procedure is usually performed on girls between the ages of 9 to 12 years, prior to the onset of puberty. In the past, the procedure -involving removal of the clitoris, together with the excision of all or part of the labia minora – was generally carried out by traditional birth attendants (dayas) and "health barbers" (who also perform circumcision of boys). The operation was frequently done without an anesthetic, using knives or razors. In recent years, however, more than 60 percent of circumcisions have been performed by physicians and nurses.
A variety of reasons are cited for FGM/C's perpetuation. The principal justification lies in the belief that the procedure reduces the sexual desire of a female, thereby helping maintain a girl's virginity prior to marriage and her fidelity thereafter.
UNICEF is an active participant in the national movement against FGM/C in Egypt, working with a variety of NGOs and national partners. In Upper Egypt, the agency supports an innovative community mobilization programme using individuals who have already chosen to stand against FGM/C, and who have found a new positive path for themselves and their families by opposing against the practice.
This project – which is being implemented in 42 communities in Assuit, Sohag, Qena and Minya -- identifies these so-called ‘positive deviants’ who then undertake awareness-raising activities within the community. While seeking to create an environment conducive to the rejection of FGM/C, the teams also identify girls liable to being circumcised, then try to persuade their families to change their minds.
The study also revealed confusion about the supposed religious foundations of the practice. Subsequently, UNICEF – in partnership with Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and NCCM – organized a series of workshops examining the issue of FGM/C in the larger context of addressing harmful practices against the girl child. Intellectuals and leading public figures were actively involved to refute the legal, religious and social arguments supporting FGM/C.
A parallel initiative has sought to enlist the support of the media in the campaign against FGM/C. This year, producers, drama directors and script writers have joined workshops organized by the International Academy of Communication Sciences designed to orient them on priority child protection issues including FGM/C. The aim is not only to create awareness but to provide the tools needed by media professionals to reporting effectively and accurately on such issues.