Egypt’s Minister of Health and Population Dr Ahmed Emad Radi has pledged to eradicate female genital mutilation in Egypt by 2030.
In a press release coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the Minister said the implementation of the National Population Strategy 2015-2013 aims to eliminate FGM by 2030.
Part of the strategy includes a ‘Doctors Against Female Circumcision’ initiative that will educate the public and other doctors against the dangers and un-Islamic nature of FGM. Doctors will also be trained to advise Egyptian families to refrain from FGM and to explain why FGM is not of medical necessity for girls.
The announcement by the Health Ministry came on the same day a new report found that FGM among teenage girls in Egypt has dropped by 27 percent over the past 30 years.
How widespread is FGM in Egypt
Nevertheless, the 2015 Egypt Health Issues Survey (EHIS) has found that around 9 in 10 women aged 15-49 have undergone female genital cutting (also known as female genital mutilation) despite a government ban on the practice.
FGM, which the 2015 EHIS says have been a tradition in Egypt since the Pharaonic period, remains widespread across Egypt but is expected to decline. For example, seven in 10 women aged 15-19 have been circumcised compared to eight in 10 women aged 20-24. However, for women between the ages of 25-49, the percentage of women who have been circumcised ranges from 89 to 97 percent.
Comparing the results to the 2008 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS), there has been a four percent decline in the overall rate of FGM for women aged 15-49.
As for why FGM levels remain high in Egypt, the survey found that many parents believe that female circumcision is required by religion. 59 percent of men agreed that FGM should continue, compared to 54 percent of women.
Despite a large number of men and women surveyed believing that FGM is condoned by Islam, Egypt’s top Islamic authority has condemned the act as ‘un-Islamic’ and ‘barbaric’. Previous studies have found the phenomenon is not necessarily linked to Islam, with Christian women also having undergone FGM.
Egypt banned FGM in 2008. Article 242 of Egypt’s Penal Code criminalizes the circumcision of girls and the punishment for performing FGM is a prison sentence ranging from three months to two years or a fine of EGP 5,000.
In January 2015, an Egyptian court imprisoned the first doctor ever brought to trial in Egypt on FGM charges that resulted in the death of 13-year-old Sohair al-Bata’a.
The doctor was sentenced to two years in prison with hard labor for manslaughter and three months for performing the banned practice. The doctor also received a fine of EGP 500 (USD 68).
The father of Sohair was also sentenced to three months in prison for FGM.
According to the World Health Organization, Egypt, Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Sierra Leone have the highest rates of FGM. A 2013 UNICEF report found that Egypt has the world’s highest total number of FGM sufferers, with 27.2 million women having undergone FGM.