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Egypt ranks first globally in FGM medicalization

Amr Hassan, the rapporteur of the National Population Council, stated that Egypt ranks first globally in the medicalization of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), with 82 percent of females under age 17 having undergone the operation, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

Hassan’s declaration followed a discussion on the medicalization of FGM during the Ninth International Conference for Fellows attended by members of the British Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology on Sunday, 3 March at Cairo University.

The World Health Organization defines the medicalization of FGM as the “situation in which FGM is practiced by any category of health-care provider, whether in a public or private clinic, at home, or elsewhere.”

The Population Council raised the red flag by revealing research that presents a noticeable increase in the number of FGM surgeries performed by doctors on young girls.

He pinpointed widespread belief among Egyptian mothers that their daughters should undergo FGM for religious and virtuous reasons. Hassan added that doctors, as well as various stakeholders, are responsible for combating such damaging mainstream thought, affirming that such reasoning is not scientifically grounded.

Hassan has previously proposed direct communication with families as an efficient method of raising awareness, citing the fact that a young girl post-operation has no understanding of the potential phantom pain and tragic consequences.

Hassan, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Cairo University, also stated that Egyptian law firmly prohibits any doctor from practicing FGM and criminalizes the whole process.

Notably, FGM was not criminalized under Egyptian law until 2008 after 11-year-old Bodour Ahmed Shaker died in the Egyptian village of Maghagha during an FGM operation in 2007. The 2008 law imposed a maximum fine of LE5000 and a maximum prison sentence of two years upon the accused doctor.

Currently, legal sanctions are firmly enforced in an attempt to enact social change.

In 2016, a majority in the Egyptian parliament voted for firmer laws to be put in place and enforced on anyone who practices FGM. The new law increased the penalties for performing FGM, stating that individuals convicted of the crime will be imprisoned for a period ranging between five and seven years.

Furthermore, the 2016 law increases the punishments for cases in which FGM leads to the death or permanent disability of the victim.

Minister of Health Hala Zayed has highlighted the efforts exerted by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with various Egyptian institutions to protect girls ages 5-17 from FGM’s destructive mental and physical impact.

Zayed affirmed the efficiency of the national strategy set by the National Population Council against FGM. The strategy was implemented in 2016 and will continue until 2020. It aims to raise awareness among Egyptian families by emphasizing the dangerous consequences of FGM.

Despite that Egyptian penal code now criminalizes the act of FGM, Hassan asserted the danger of various inherited cultural values that account for the existence of FGM in Egyptian society until now.

He underscored ongoing collaboration between the National Population Council and the central administration of non-governmental therapeutic institutions for the elimination of FGM.

FGM is a dangerous early-age operation that is still widely practiced in Egypt along with 30 other African countries as well as other in areas throughout the Middle East and several East Asian countries.

UNICEF displays shocking statistics in studies about FGM in Egypt. The studies show that 91 percent of Egyptian females in the 15-49 age group have undergone FGM while the latest research conducted by the Population Council shows that girls ages 13-17 who have had the operation dropped to 72 percent in 2018.

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