CAIRO - After the death of a young girl in upper Egypt during a botched circumcision, women and doctors in Cairo launched a number of protests in recent days to decry the practice, which has been officially outlawed since 2008. Government officials say, however, that they can only step in when someone formally launches a complaint.
A crowd of mostly women took to the streets of Cairo to protest the enduring but now illegal practice of female circumcision. Egypt has the largest percentage of circumcised women of any country in the world.
The protests began after 12-year-old Nada Hassan Abdel Maqsoud died from a botched circumcision in the Upper Egypt town of Assyout. Both the girl's father and uncle were arrested and held for questioning for four days, along with the retired doctor who performed the procedure.
Since 2003, at least six Egyptian young women have died as a result of being circumcised.
Writer and sociologist Nawal Sadawi decried the practice at a recent women's forum.
She said that circumcising women is ghastly, both medically, socially and psychologically. It is deceitful, she said, to cut off a part of a girl's body on the pretext of morality. Even in Saudi Arabia, which is the center of Islam, she stressed, they do not do such things.
Dr. George Nashed, who heads the good practices committee of the Egyptian Doctors' Syndicate, told Egyptian media that female circumcision continues, despite having been outlawed in 2008.
He said that Egyptian law now bans the procedure, but it remains a customary practice, even if it is not based in religion. He said the practice is less common in Cairo, but widespread in the provinces and villages.
One middle-aged woman in Sharqiya province, north of Cairo, however, said Islam calls for the procedure, but gave no evidence to support the claim.
She said that grandmothers and mothers and all of women have been circumcised and that's the custom. Her husband adds that all four of his daughters have been circumcised, because - in his words - "it's the right thing to do."
Hatem el Gamasy, who wrote a book on female genital mutilation, says that religious hardliners in parliament even tried to tried to annul the law banning female circumcision when the Muslim Brotherhood was in power from 2012 to 2013.
More than 87% of Egyptian women from ages 15 to 49 are circumcised. The figure is almost as high in Sudan. By contrast, only 18.5% of Yemeni women and just 7.4% of Iraqi women are circumcised.
A group of women doctors, including Dr. Souhair, spent a day in a Cairo metro station to educate passersby about the ills of female circumcision.
She said that a woman who has been circumcised will suffer a chronic deficiency in her intimate relations.