Thursday, September 1, 2016

Banning FGM in Egypt

If the Huffington Post can cheer this new law, everyone with any sense should do the same. Everyone, that is, except those who persist in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

At issue is the Egyptian practice of FGM. The term is an acronym for Female Genital Mutilation. Some insist on calling to female circumcision, but that is, dare I say, a deceptive euphemism.

Even though the Egyptian government outlawed the practice in 2008, it still persists. Now the Egyptian government is moving toward changing the law by making FGM a felony, not a misdemeanor.

The Huffington Post reports:

Three months after a teenager died while undergoing female genital mutilation conducted by a doctor, Egypt is cracking down on the practice.

The Egyptian cabinet approved a draft bill on Sunday that would enact a punishment of five to seven years in prison for anyone who performs FGM, according to Ahram Online. Previously, the penalty was three months to two years.

The bill, which still has to be ratified by parliament, raises the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony.

“A strong law is the first step to protecting every girl at risk,” Suad Abu-Dayyeh of women’s rights organization Equality Now said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “We have seen some reduction in FGM in Egypt, but at the same time health professionals and others are still not being held to account for carrying it out. With a better law, it is now more likely that this can change.”

Female genital mutilation involves the total or partial removal of, or injury to, the external female genitalia for no medical benefit, and can cause bleeding, infertility or death. The World Health Organization considers it a violation of women’s rights.

The practice of FGM has been illegal in Egypt since 2008, according to the BBC, but it is still widespread.

Egypt has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world, with 87 percent of women aged 15 to 49 having undergone the procedure, according to Unicef.

Think about that: 87% of young Egyptian women have been genitally mutilated.

On several occasions I have remarked that, to do voter outreach before the 2012 presidential election, the Muslim Brotherhood sent mobile surgical vans into the poor neighborhoods of Cairo, to make it more convenient for parents to mutilate their daughters.

Now I have discovered an article  from 2012 that described the outreach program in detail:

In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood have offered to circumcise women for a nominal fee as part of their community services, a move that threatens to reverse decades of local struggle against the harmful practice argues Mariz Tadros.

Voting in the Egyptian presidential election is underway and what better way to win over votes of the poor than through offering badly needed low cost services and free goods. The Muslim Brotherhood, who have a track record in community outreach through services and goods, have added a new service for Egyptians: circumcising girls for a nominal fee. The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision as it is popularly called, involves the removal of the clitoris and part of the labia minora under the pretext that this will protect a girl’s chastity. FGM, although practiced for thousands of years, has been on the decline in the past decade thanks to a socially sensitive and nationwide campaign to show that FGM is neither religiously prescribed, nor linked to a woman’s moral behaviour. Thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, the progress made in eliciting positive social change on curbing the practice now risks being reversed.

As it happened, the Brothers denied the charge. However, reporter  Mariz Tadros found a flyer from the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood political party that said otherwise:

The flyer which has the party’s logo on it says “The Freedom and Justice party in Abou Aziz is honoured to organize the yearly health clinic which covers all specialisations for a nominal fee of LE 5 for a check up on Friday the 20/4/2012 at the Islamic Institute after Friday prayers”. This was followed by a list of specialists including surgery, gynaecology and obstetrics, dentistry, dermatology etc. At the bottom of the list is a note saying “We receive cases for circumcision for males and females for LE30 a case”. What is significant about this flyer is the reference to male and female circumcision as if the practices were similar, and the fact that these are treated as medical cases, “operations” to be performed by members of a medical team.

It is unclear whether the mobile health clinic did actually go ahead with circumcising the girls. Since the introduction of the law criminalizing the practice in 2008, the villagers have been circumcising their daughters secretly with the help of a nurse who visited once a year, in secret, and circumcised the girls in groups. Hence, it is unlikely that the villagers would readily admit to the clinic offering FGM as they have collectively been practising it illegally for a long time. A resident of the Abou Aziz village - who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals - said that the flyer was posted everywhere in the village, but that immediately after the publicity the flyers disappeared.

In view of the political standing of the Muslim Brotherhood and their religious influence among many Egyptians, there is no denying that the impact of their promotion of FGM is deep and far reaching. Whether girls were circumcised or not on the 20th of April is not the point: what is at issue here is their propagation of a practice that has been proven to be detrimental to women's well being and bodily integrity. 

The article goes into extensive detail. It is filled with denials and counter denials. To some extent the Mubarak government succeeded in reducing the practice of FGM. And the Muslim Brotherhood was going to facilitate its return… or, at least, to offer the option.

So, one asks again, why was the first foreign leader to grace the presence of newly elected Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton? 


AesopFan said...

Interesting juxtaposition of articles this morning - surely FGM is the ultimate in gender stereotyping?

How did such an ugly, dangerous, and basically useless tradition even get started, much less last for thousands of years, especially since (as Egypt says) it's not even in the Koran.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Funny thing... when the articles call FGM circumcision they are effectively equating it with male circumcision.

As for useless and horrific traditions, consider also the practice of footbinding China-- it lasted for nearly a thousand years.

Trigger Warning said...

FGM, terrible and barbaric as it is, is a minor inconvenience compared to suttee.

My favorite comment on multicultural tolerance is atributed to General Napier of the British military in colonial India:

"Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs."