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|Estimated prevalence of (FGM) in Africa|
A law passed in June 2007 that completely criminalized female genital mutilation (FGM) in Egypt may finally be decreasing the practice in Egypt, according to research published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics.
FGM has been a persistent problem in Egypt for decades. The UNICEF puts the percentage of FGM performed on women in Egypt from 1997 to 2009 at 91% – one of the highest rates in the world. Most people perform it for cultural reasons rather than religious reasons. There has been several laws passed in the past to curb the practice, such as banning it from public hospitals, but it continued to be practiced elsewhere, especially in uncertified clinics.
The researchers, led by Salah Rasheed from the faculty of medicine, Sohag University, Egypt, distributed questionnaire to women aged 5 to 25 who visited two hospitals in the rural Upper Egypt region, nurses and physicians. The incidence of FGM started to drop in 2000, well before the practice was fully criminalized. This is probably related to all the awareness campaigns against the practice, especially from religious leaders who stressed it is not a religious obligation. In Islam, male genital circumcision is a religious obligation. Despite this, Rasheed found that 44% of parents said they subjected their daughters to FGM to comply with religious beliefs.
Between 2000 and 2009, the incidence dropped from 9.6% to 7.7% when the study period ended.
Interestingly, the researchers found that nurses in Upper Egypt were most in favour of preserving the practice, with 88.2% of them answering so in the questionnaire. Of the young physicians, nearly 34.3% were pro-FGM. Older physicians were less likely to agree, with only 14.9% approving the practice.
While the incidence rate of FGM is decreasing in Egypt, it still remains quite high, warns the researchers despite the law that criminalized the practice. The problem is that in many places there is an entrenched belief that it is a religious duty, much like male circumcision. It will take time to change a habit, but at least this research shows there are some positive signs