News / Middle East

    Female Genital Mutilation Still Widespread in Egypt

    Interview with Egyptian Activist Nehad Abud Komsani
    X
    April 30, 2013 7:33 PM
    Egyptian activists are concerned that the rise of Islamist politicians could undermine years of work to discourage female genital mutilation. But as Elizabeth Arrott reports from Cairo, the practice and the movement against it have far deeper roots in the country.
    Watch the interview with Nehad Abud Komsan
    Elizabeth Arrott
    Egyptian activists are concerned that the rise of Islamist politicians could undermine years of work to discourage female genital mutilation. The practice, and the movement against it, however, have far deeper roots in the country.

    To its supporters, it is a sign of purity, community and religious devotion. To its opponents, it marks the physical manifestation of a woman's degradation.

    A counselor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have female genital mutilation performed on their daughters, in Minia, Egypt, Jun. 2006.A counselor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have female genital mutilation performed on their daughters, in Minia, Egypt, Jun. 2006.
    x
    A counselor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have female genital mutilation performed on their daughters, in Minia, Egypt, Jun. 2006.
    A counselor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have female genital mutilation performed on their daughters, in Minia, Egypt, Jun. 2006.
    Female genital mutilation, FGM, is an ancient custom in Egypt, with references pre-dating both Islam and Christianity. The practice remains widespread, with estimates today suggesting as many as 90 percent of Egyptian women are affected.  

    Egypt criminalized all forms of FGM in 2008 and rights monitors say the number of girls undergoing the operation has dropped by about one third.

    But Nehad Abud Komsan, director of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, said the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood and more conservative Salafist politicians threaten those gains.

    “They come to say 'we may have a law to make it [legal] in a certain condition, or to say it is good for protection. They are destroying years of efforts to protect girls and women in Egypt and, unfortunately, by using religion,” said Komsan.

    Courts have rejected legal challenges to the current ban, but with the judiciary and the government of President Mohamed Morsi at odds, worries are growing. Adding to concerns are predictions that Salafists are poised to do well in parliamentary elections later this year.

    Komsan says non-governmental work on the ground and respect for motivations are key to changing attitudes about FGM.    

    She divides people who support FGM into three groups: those who see it as social and cultural ceremony; those who believe it will help women control their sexuality; and those who believe it is mandated by religion.

    She said offering alternatives is easiest in the first two groups. By substituting different, non-invasive rituals that celebrate either womanhood or community, the spirit of the occasion is preserved, without the damage to a woman or girl's body.

    Political activist and filmmaker Hala Galal described the efforts of one village that chose to reject FGM.

    “Even the lady who was supposing to do this operation herself, by her hand, she also swear and she also stopped and now she is doing something like weddings. I mean she changed her career also,” said Galal.

    As for those who think FGM will keep women from expressing their sexuality, Komsan argues that training the mind is a far more effective, and humane approach.

    “They have to understand that protection is not by cutting a part of our body but by educating them, and ourselves, how to control our life and by sending our girls to school,” she said.

    It is the third part, said Komsan, that is the hardest.  

    “I always joke and say FGM is a sign of unity between Muslims and the Christians in Egypt because most of them believe it is a part of their religions,” she said.

    It is not, and even though both the head of the prestigious al-Azhar Institute and Christian leaders have spoken out against the practice, the link to religion remains.  

    Political activist Galal said there is yet another issue anti-FGM advocates face: the charge they are trying to impose western values on Egypt. “I tell people who accuse us of making this and serving the western agenda, I tell them. 'What is the other agenda, to oppress women?'”

    It is an uphill battle for anti-FGM activists, but one marked by both legal and grass-root successes so far. Their worry now is that in the current political climate, the road ahead may be even steeper.

    You May Like

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: joe from: sarr
    April 30, 2013 6:04 PM
    why we should care!!!!!!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora