Recently the UN Sustainable Development (SDGs) planned to totally eliminate the Female Genital mutilation (FGM) in Egypt by 2030; it seemed brilliant and achievable for many, however Amel Fahmy, co-founder of HarassMap initiative, calls it “impossible”.
In an article for Open Democracy, Fahmy, managing director of Tadwein, a Gender Research Center in Egypt, said the FGM deadlock in Egypt is a form of violence against women used to exercise control over women’s bodies and maintain the current man-dominated society.
Fahmy has worked on gender-base violence with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund, and says that most awareness programs for FGM during the past twelve years have been led by the government and solely carrying two messages: FGM is not a part of the religion and has carries an array of negative health impacts.
“Yet, without a full exploration of the relationship between sexual norms and FGM in Egypt, it will be difficult if not impossible to totally eliminate the practice,” Fahmy said.
According to Fahmy the issue that has not been addressed yet in these programs is women’s sexual rights and freedoms. Fahmy considers FGM could be due to cultural, social or even religious beliefs, but it is still an issue of control.
“Women’s sexuality is perceived as something that needs to be guided and restrained for the sake of society, and the belief in this practice is so entrenched, that even criminalizing it doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to future generations,” Fahmy said in the article.
In 2014, the Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) data reported that prevalence of FGM dropped by 4.7 percent in the past 20 years reaching 92.3 percent in 2014 among ever-married women between the ages 15-45.
Moreover, 21.4 percent of daughters aged 0-19 reported by their mother to be currently circumcised with a decrease of 6 percent over the last ten years. While 34.9 percent of mothers intended to circumcise their girls in the future with only 2.7 percent decrease over a period of 20 years.
An alarming finding was in the Survey of Young people in Egypt (SYPE) which unveiled that in 2014 at least 70.7 percent of young female and 68.6 percent of young male respondents said they would put their daughters through the practice of FGM.
Although many studies point to women as the main decision makers when it comes to FGM, Fahmy included in its article few studies which investigate that the men’s perceptions of their roles within the family are strongly linked to the continuance of FGM.
The article mentioned a study conducted in 2010 in Egypt revealed that men are the responsible for “superiority” and “protection”. Men feel responsible for protecting their daughters and wives, and FGM is seen as an important aid in this role.
Surprisingly the majority of men interviewed in this study believed women who did not undergo FGM are “oversexed” and sexually demanding, which they believe can lead to extra-marital relationships.