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September 24, 2016 / 21 Elul, 5776
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14 Year Old Egyptian Girl Dies From FGM

Nehad Abouel Komsan (center), of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, speaking at a 2012 panel

Nehad Abouel Komsan (center), of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, speaking at a 2012 panel
Photo Credit: Egyptian Center for Women's Rights

More than 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also referred to, misleadingly, as female circumcision. A 14 year old Egyptian girl just died from it.

The numbers had begun to recede from an all time high of 97 percent of Egyptian women genitally mutilated. But all that changed when the Islamists came to power after the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosnai Mubarak.

Although FGM is not required under Shariah, the reduction in oppression of women was viewed as a vestige of the Mubarak era, and the Islamists reversed any forward movement on that front.

According to an article in AlAkhbar, the unnamed 14 year old girl died after being genitally mutilated by a doctor to whom her father had taken her for the procedure. Both the father and the doctor are facing criminal charges.

The practice of FGM was officially banned in Egypt in 2008, but it is widespread and continues to be practiced, especially in rural areas, according to Nehad Abul Komsan, the head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Health.

The reason women are forced to undergo female genital mutilation is that it is believed by its proponents to “purify” women from sexual temptation. That would be because the women are so badly and brutally injured, that going to the bathroom or even sitting down can be painful for the duration of one’s life. And the lifelong discomfort which is often a side effect of FGM certainly would dissuade those who have had it to avoid anything that might cause further pain.

According to a World Health Organization 2014 update, there are no health benefits to FGM, only harm to the rights and health of girls and women upon whom it is performed.

Although, according to the WHO, no religions require FGM, there are cultures in which the practice is believed to be required by the religion.

FGM is practiced most widely in more than two dozen countries throughout Africa. Countries in which it is currently estimated that more than 80 percent of all women have undergone FGM include Egypt (91.1), Somalia (97.9), Sudan (90), Sierra Leone (94), Guinea (95.6), Djibouti (93.1), Eritrea (88.7) and Mali (85.2).

Although all of the collected evidence suggests that FGM is most prevalent in Africa, and is nearly non-existent in the Middle East, in a 2007 article published in the Middle East Quarterly disputes that.  The authors in that article emphatically state it is inaccurate to suggest that FGM is not widespread, despite the absence of reported evidence, in the Middle East. The absence of evidence has more to do with women and girls being forbidden to report the practice, especially to foreigners. This same article argues that FGM is considered by certain established authorities on Islam to be strongly encouraged by the Muslim faith.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com


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