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Fresh progress toward the elimination of female genital mutilation and cutting in Egypt

CAIRO, 2 July 2007 – The momentum to completely eliminate female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) in Egypt has accelerated in recent days with the passage of a ministerial decree and an anti-FGM/C statement by the country's top Muslim institution.

The decree by the Minister of Health and Population last week fully criminalizes FGM/C and closes a previous legal loophole that would prevent health professionals and others from undertaking the practice in both governmental and non-governmental hospitals.

Simultaneously, Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research, the highest religious authority in Egypt, issued a statement saying FGM/C has no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions and that it is harmful and should not be practiced.

Fresh action was initiated on several fronts in recent days after a FGM/C-related death of 12 year-old girl in Upper Egypt last week. During the Third Regional Conference on Violence against Children, the First Lady Suzanne Mubarak dedicated a minute of silence for the recent child FGM/C victim. She announced the launch of a national campaign aimed at drawing more attention to the harmful practice and accelerating efforts to legally ban FGM/C. The First Lady also announced the amendment of the Child Law 1996, which in addition to banning FGM/C also addresses other child rights issues.

"UNICEF will fully support the National Council of Childhood and Motherhood, the Ministry of Health and Population, and all partners to help fully implement the strengthened law and educate people on its meaning. The law could serve as the mechanism for members of communities to report violators and bring a quick end to this extremely harmful practice," said UNICEF Egypt Representative Dr. Erma Manoncourt.

Since 2003, and under the leader ship of National Council of Childhood and Motherhood, UNICEF has been active in the FGM/C issue in Egypt by promoting education and awareness-raising and other activities. A key element of UNICEF’s effort is to assist the government in institutionalizing and implementing policies and strategies to eliminate FGM/C. UNICEF will continue supporting the National Council of Childhood and Motherhood, and the proposed related Child Law amendments, and the Ministry of Health and Population in educating the medical professionals and the public in general about the dangers of FGM/C.

An estimated three million girls and women are subjected to FGM/C each year on the African continent, including Egypt. FGM/C is an explicit violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which turns 18 this year. In Egypt the vast majority of FGM/C procedures are performed by trained medical personnel, according to the 2005 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:
Michael Bociurkiw Chief, Media Section UNICEF Egypt, Tel: +20-2-526-5083 ext 210, mbociurkiw@unicef.org




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