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Female genital mutilation

The term Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
  • More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated.
  • FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
  • FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types.

  • Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
  • Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" that surround the vagina).
  • Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
  • Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

FGM in Egypt

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is still widespread – but increasingly condemned – throughout much of North and East Africa. However, the recent history of the practice in Egypt presents special challenges for those trying to end it. According to the national 2014 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 92 percent of Egyptian married women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone FGM, 72 percent of whom by doctors. Although a positive change in women’s attitudes about circumcision has occurred, there is still widespread support for the continuation of FGM in Egypt. The 2008 DHS showed that 63 per cent of women aged 15-49 believed the practice should continue. FGM is part of the social fabric of the Egyptian community and is in some cases upheld by beliefs associated with religion. Husbands’ preferences for circumcised women and the prevention of adultery were among the most cited reasons by women aged 15-49 for supporting the practice (60 per cent, 39 per cent respectively).

n June of 2008, the Egyptian Parliament agreed to criminalize FGM/C in the Penal Code, establishing a minimum custodial sentence of three months and a maximum of two years, or an alternative minimum penalty of 1,000 Egyptian pounds (LE) and a maximum of 5,000 LE. As of yet no one has been convicted according to this law.

Also, the new Child Law included the formation of Child Protection Committees (CPC) at different national levels with duties to identify, support and monitor children at risk of neglect and abuse, including girls at risk of circumcision.

 In Egypt, 92 percent of women and girls aged 15-49 have undergone some form of FGM

FGM dashboard Egypt

Furthermore, to assist in the enforcement of legislation, Egypt hosted in 2008 a regional meeting entitled 'Cairo Declaration+5'. This conference is a follow-up to the 2003 meeting that also took place in Cairo and resulted in an important legal document on FGM titled 'The Cairo Declaration for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation'. The main objectives of the conference were to follow up on the recommendations of the pervious conference and to launch an international campaign aimed at rekindling world-wide attention on FGM.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health (MoH) issued in 2007 a ministerial decree (271) closing a loophole in the previous 1996 decree by banning everyone, including health professionals, from performing FGM in governmental or non-governmental hospitals/clinics.

In 2007, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa’s issued a 'Fatwa' condemning FGM and the Azhar Supreme Council for Islamic Research issued a statement explaining that FGM has no basis in the core Islamic Sharia or any of its partial provisions.

In September 2012, Egyptian gynecologists and obstetricians union launched a statement declaring that FGM is not a medical procedure and is not included in any medical curriculum else as a practice that should be prevented consequently law doesn’t offer protection to physicians who practice it.

Programme Overview:

Since 2008 the UNFPA–UNICEF Joint programme to accelerate the abandonment of FGM has been engaged in a broad range of areas such as law reform, research and data analysis, capacity building of medical personnel and field workers, as well as direct engagement with local communities and religious leaders. In 2014, the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme has launched a second phase, expanding its work to 17 countries. The Joint Programme is working closely with the Ministry of Health (MoH) to address the growing challenge of medicalization, reinforcement of the FGM/C ban law, and mobilizing social change at the community levels.

Furthermore, the Joint Programme has 9 outputs, namely:

  • Effective enactment and enforcement of legislation against FGM/C.
  • Knowledge dissemination of socio-cultural dynamics of FGM/C practice.
  • Collaboration with key global development partners on a common framework for the abandonment of FGM/C.
  • Evidence-based data for programming and policies.
  • Consolidation of existing partnerships and forging new partnerships.
  • Expanding networks of religious leaders advocating abandonment of FGM/C.
  • Media campaigns emphasizing FGM/C abandonment process in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan and Egypt.
  • Better integration of the implications of FGM/C practice into reproductive health strategies.
  • Building donor support to pool resources for a global movement towards the abandonment of FGM/C.

This joint programme also supports the National Programme against FGM and Family Empowerment lead by the National Population Council and most recently, supporting the National Population Council in the implementation of the National Strategy (2014-2018).

UNFPA interventions:

UNFPA’s interventions to combat the harmful practice under the global joint program with UNICEF includes building the capacity of medical personnel, as well as direct engagement with local communities and religious leaders. It also involves empowerment programs for girls.

  • The National Committee to Eradicate FGM

The UNFPA-UNICEF joint program supported the launch event of the committee to commemorate the National FGM Day.

It also supported a number of communication campaigns under the national committee; namely the campaign entitled #ProtectHerFromFGM including a radio campaign comprising 10 spots. The radio campaign resulted in the increase in calls received by the national child help-line inquiring about FGM especially from a religious viewpoint.

  • Knocking door campaign

The national knocking door campaign set out to reach women and girls and their families in rural and underprivileged areas through house visits to raise awareness and provide advice on FGM elimination. It engaged the outreach team simultaneously in 26 governorates. In 2019, the campaign reached over 2 million beneficiariesThe campaign was on the ground in villages reaching 1,033,934 women, 422,046 men and 789,542 children. 

  • FGM on Television

UNFPA also supported the NCW to develop in collaboration with Dr Nehad Aboul Komsan, Chair of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, to develop 5 TV show episodes of her show “Hekayat Nehad” (Nehad’s stories) on FGM, child marriage and violence against women.

  • Girl empowerment

UNFPA supported the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood to roll out the Dawwie initiative. Dawwie in Arabic translates into a sound with an impact/echo and aims to represent a growing community supporting girls to fulfill their full potential. The initiative focuses on activities such as interactive community theater, intergenerational dialogues, digital platforms and edutainment to facilitate a change in social expectations in four governorates.

UNFPA bridged YPEER, UNFPA’s youth leadership network, with Dawwie by training YPEER volunteers on Dawwie methodologies.

UNFPA also supported the Champions of Change program, designed by Plan International to combat gender inequalities and harmful practices through empowering girls and engaging boys. Community members regularly participated in education dialogues as part of the program, and girls and boys were trained to identify and challenge harmful, negative masculinities that perpetuate discrimination and inequality.

The program engaged with the community through different activities such as interactive puppet shows, as well as educational camps.

  • Training to address harmful practices

UNFPA supported the NCCM through training NGOs in addressing harmful practices in four governorates and the capacity to roll out the Dawwie initiatives. UNFPA also supported the NCCM to capacitate and roll out 'Dawwie' initiative with cadres of the Ministry of Health. 

In an effort to combat FGM and child marriage in governorates where they are highly prevalent, UNFPA supported 31 Community Development Associations (CDAs) to raise awareness and provide prevention and response services on FGM and child marriage in three governorates.

As part of an effort to combat the medicalization of FGM in Egypt and strengthen the health care response to FGM, UNFPA provided doctors received a package on how to address FGM prevention and care through the Ministry of Health and Population.

Advocacy and networking sessions were also organized in Sohag and Qena aiming at equipping CDA staff with knowledge and enhancing their capacities to be advocates in their communities. Representatives of the Health and Youth and Sport Departments, MOSS and the CP Committees, along with the Steering Committee were present at the meetings to develop the recommendations reports.  

  • Community mobilization

Other public activities were also held such as a march in Qena with participants carrying banners denouncing FGM. Legal support/counseling sessions were also conducted for women in Assiut, to provide them with new information on their legal right, focusing on the legal aspects of FGM.

Other activities included intergenerational dialogues to bridge the gap and actively involve young people and women, to discuss FGM and early marriage with traditional and religious leaders, as well as symposiums on FGM.

A number of awareness sessions on the harms of FGM and early marriage were organized for women by Champions of Change participants with the support of CDAs. Competitions were also organized in Qena to encourage girls to conduct researches on FGM and early marriage.

UNFPA also partnered with Noon Creative Enterprise (Noon), on an interactive street theatre show about FGM called Hara TV III which has been performed nationwide. The play comprises a number of scenes addressing FGM as part of what Egyptian girls have to endure, illustrating the phases of girlhood in one conservative community of Egypt, including undergoing FGM/C as well as the social pressure mothers experience to submit their girls to these practices. The audience is involved in a discussion afterwards, which has proved to be very effective in creating an open discussion on sensitive issues such as sexuality and marital problems.

In Cooperation with the NPC and other UN agencies, UNFPA also launched a National TV Campaign “ENOUGH FGM” – widely shown on national TV until the end 2015.

  • Policy and law enforcement:

Supporting the National Population Council in the implementation of the National Strategy to combat FGM (2014-2018), UNFPA in collaboration with the NPC and the office of the General Prosecutor developed a training program for prosecutors on FGM in end 2014. In 2015, the training was expanded to include forensic experts and judges. The aim of the training is to raise awareness on all issues related to FGM and to identify gaps in the current legal proceedings and administrative oversights which hinder litigating relevant cases according to the FGM criminalizing penal code, and finally to give the appropriate tools to law enforcement personnel to avoid falling in the legal loopholes.

UNFPA Partners:

  • The National Council for Women
  • The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood
  • Coalition of NGOs against FGM: UNFPA supported the establishment and strengthening of the NGOs Coalition to eliminate FGM, which was recently registered in the Ministry of Social Solidarity bringing together 90 local NGOs joining forces to eliminate FGM in Egypt.
  • National Population Council
  • Ministry of Health and Population
  • Azhar
  • Bless
  • CSD