Foreign Policy Blogs

Egypt Makes Huge Strides in Putting an End to Female Circumcision


In the past week UNICEF has positively acknowledge a number of strides taken by the Egyptian government in the last week to abolish the traditional and horrendous practice of female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM). The governments actions where heavily incited after the recent death of a 12 year-old girl. The girl, Badour Shaker, who died at on June 29th, after having the FGM procedure preformed in an illegal medical clinic. Egypt's Health and Population Minister has issued a decree fully criminalizing FGM and closing a previous loophole involving health professionals conducting the practice, UNICEF said July 2 (UN News).


Badour Shaker

This is not the first step the Egyptian government has taken to abolish FGM, the political and legal strides began in 1959 when it was forbidden to practice FGM, and could result in a fine or imprisonment. A number of ministerial decrees followed, which allowed some forms of FGM to be practiced, while also prohibiting doctors from conducting FGM's in government health facilities, and banning all non-medical persons from practicing FGM. However in 1994 following a CNN broadcast of a 9 year old girl being give a procedure by a barber, a law was established allowing FGM to be performed in government health facilities one day a week by trained medical personnel. The 1994 law was overturned in 1995, after various protests. In December 1997, a full government ban on FGM, prohibiting all medical and non-medical persons from performing FGM, unless certified as a medical reasons. Under the 1997 ban, violators could have faced loss of their medical license, and could face criminal charges, or penal manslaughter charge in the case of death.

The loophole of allowing FGM to be preformed if certified for medical reasons, was what prompted the government to update the laws, and truly place a full ban on FGM. Unfortunately by making all forms and cases of FGM illegal, will not completely eradicate the practice. FGM is still heavily practiced in many other African nations, including the surrounding nation of Sudan, which has a 90% prevalence of FGM, according to UNICEF. It is estimated that around 3 million girls undergo FGM every year in Africa alone. A 2005 UNICEF report showed that 97% of girls and woman 15-49, in Egypt had experienced some type of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, A Statistical Exploration).

There is no religious doctrine for Female circumcision, and it is not conducted with any religious bias in Egypt, the practice has continued by both Muslims and Christians. FMG is done various reasons, or under multiple guises, however the most common reason indicated for FGM is to preserve a girls virginity. FGM can be the partial or full removal of the external genitalia. FGM can often be fatal, especially when done in none sanitary condition, and/or by non-medically trained persons, which can often cause excessive bleeding, transmission of disease, or shock. The complications and long term effects of FGM, can include; pain, infertility, difficulties in child birth, trouble with menstruation or urination, problems and extreme pain with intercourse, lack of sexual desire, no sexual stimulation, and mental illness.

The changes in Egyptian law will hopefully bring an end to this barbaric practice, that is physically, sexually and mentally abusive to young girls. Female Genital Mutilation, or Circumcision, mentally and physically scar's girls for their entire lives!

State Department Report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Egypt
Female Genital Mutilation , The Facts
Giving up on FGM: why a village midwife put down her scalpel
World Health Organization (WHO) – Female Genital Mutilation
Razor's Edge: The Controversy of Female Genital Mutilation

  • Nancy Ingoglia

    A horrific, disturbing video was posted on facebook last month approximately April 24, 2010 on the site of “NoStress” of a young girl missing her two front teeth wearing a beautiful dress who was paraded into a small living room occupied by four proud men while an older woman hid in a kitchen doorway. The man lifted her dress to expose diaper like bandages; one man took a long bandage and held her left leg high into the air so she could not stop them; he took a tool and without medication performed the surgery while the poor little girl started shaking her right hand as she went into great pain; the older woman began chanting a loud high pitched, tounge rolling sufferage. The man spoke confidently as he performed the ceromony. The shocked girl was next shown passed out as they put a cotton ball under her nose. I cannot sleep until I am confident this ceramony must stop. I wonder if the girl survived. I am so releived I do not live in that country and would have suffered such trauma at the hands of men. I want to see that man punished for what he did! Please help me to bring justice to these suffering children, i beg you, please! I have written to the white house last week and I want to help this crusade to stop female circumcision in Egypt or where ever it is happening. Naturally, the video is no longer to be found on that site and I regret I didn’t act sooner except for the fact it took that long to gather information from a friends- most people I had the nerve to talk about it to never heard of the crime.


Cassandra Clifford
Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict