Female Circumcision in Egypt:
Between Reality and Perceptions
Monday December 8, 2003
The Move, Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action
Panel Discussion Summary
Designed to orient AUC students on the prevalence and approaches
to addressing FGC in Egypt, The Move, a new student-run organization
aiming to address illiteracy, circumcision and early marriage in
Egyptian, organized a panel discussion titled Female Circumcision
in Egypt: Between Reality and Perceptions on Monday December 8,
2003. The session provided a comprehensive and well-rounded survey
of FGC in Egypt. Moderated by Dr. Marie Asaad, the panel discussion
was divided into four main areas of discussion; religious, medical,
social and media-related approaches to FGM.
What is the Islamic Perspective Towards FC?
Dr. Abdel Moati Bayoumi, Professor of Islamic Philosophy, al-Azhar
Dr. Bayoumi stressed that FC is not an Islamic practice, and responded
by clarifying the difference between khifad and khitan (khifad,
meaning reduction of the size of the clitoris, rather than khitan).
He later distinguished between the validity of the sunna, hadith
and the makruma (a tradition if not practiced, believers will not
be punished) stressing that there is no evidence to support an alleged
hadiths on the Prophet’s promotion of FC. Dr. Bayoumi also stressed
the complexity of the Arabic language and the danger of false interpretations
of Islamic sayings that may promote FC. He stressed FC as ‘idrar’-
connoting bodily harm to the body, sacrilegious in Islamic tradition.
What is the Christian Perspective Towards
Eng. Nabil Samuel, Director General of CEOSS.
In agreement with Dr. Bayoumi, Eng. Samuel emphasized FC as an
interference to a ‘sacred design’ of the human body, again sacrilegious
in a Judeo-Christian tradition. In a highly charged and emotional
response, Eng. Samuel denounced the popular Egyptian misconceptions
of purity as a physically tangible ideal. He also added that no
reference is made on FC in the Old and New Testament, and that this
is attributed to Christ’s teachings focusing on values and ideals,
not on practices.
Medical Perspectives, and Origins of FC.
Is FC pharonic in origin?
Dr. Mohamed Fayyad, Gynecologist , President of International
African Association for Mother & Child.
Dr. Mahmoud Karim, Professor of Gynecology, Faculty of Medicine,
Ain-Shams University, Vice President of ESPHPWC.
Dr. Fayyad denounced theorizing the origins of FC as Pharonic.
There are no references to ‘circumcised’ women in Pharonic art,
argues Dr. Fayyad, and that FC originated in Central Africa, stretching
to neighboring countries and arriving to Egypt during Pharonic times.
Dr. Karim added that Pharonic queens were circumcised according
to Ancient Egyptian texts, and according to studies by popularized
surgeon Worseley. The first case of circumcised women in Egyptian
history is 1064 B.C.
What are the medical complications
Dr. Fayyad recounted an incident on the death of a six-year old
as a result of a hemorrhage induced by FC. In a later incident,
Dr. Fayyad donated blood to save the life of another young girl.
He surveyed both short-term and long-term health effects, stressing
the risks of extensive bleeding and infections. He also attributed
‘ignorance’ as a source of risk (a problematic term that was argued
by Dr. Asaad, who warned against the dangers of medicalization).
Dr. Fayyad also added an interesting argument, linking the increased
use of hashish and cannabis amongst Egyptian women to FC, in an
alleviation of their psycho-sexual pain.
Group Discussion Dr. Marie Asaad here stressed the increasing medicalization
of FC in Egypt (60%). Dr. Fayyad added that clinic-based FC adds
revenue of L.E. 30-40,000 p/month, and addressed the ineffectiveness
of law and legislation against FC in Egypt. Making reference to
law and legislation against FC in Ghana, which has reduced percentage
rates of FC from 80% to 20%, Dr. Fayyad called for an investigation
of why laws against FC have failed in Egypt. Dr. Bayoumi pointed
out the absence pf FC in other Arab-Islamic countries, comparing
FC to extinct harmful traditional practices towards the woman’s
body similar to the chastity belt. Legislation is ineffective in
combating traditional practices, according to Dr. Bayoumi, and a
comprehensive cultural intervention campaign with various awareness
programs should be implemented instead. This paved the argument
towards the role of the media and popular culture in addressing
The Role of Mass Media in FC Intervention
How has media reporting on FC contributed to the anti-FGM campaign
Ms. Nahed El Minshawi, Deputy Chief Editor, Gomhoureya Newspaper.
Reporting on FC accelerated following the ICPD 1994 conference,
and the controversy arising from CNN’s broadcast of the circumcision
of a nine-year old, according to Ms. El Minshawi. Journalists should
be trained to report effectively on women’s health and population
issues. Previously writing in HAWA magazine addressed FC under the
banner of hygiene, however the topic remains stigmatized because
it addresses sexuality. Therefore the issue is transformed in the
method of its reporting, and this must change.
How effective is the Egyptian mass media in the anti-FGC campaign?
Dr. Dorria Sharaf El-Din, Head of Satellite Channels, Egyptian
Audio media is the most effective means to reach a mass audience
in Egypt. Television programs express redundant words on the issue,
as raw explicit topics cannot be discussed on Egyptian television,
according to Dr. Sharaf El-Din. Egypt is in a state of denial of
its social problems, she adds. In the Egyptian case, the religious
approach is the most sensitive and powerful to address FC amongst
mass audiences in Egypt, and it should be used to educate public
opinion on the role of Islam in combating FC. Dr. Sharaf El-Din
mentioned that it should be noted in the media that “We look
a bit strange” in the eyes of the rest of the Arab-Islamic
world, as FC is unheard of in other Arab-Islamic countries such
as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Speculations such as the
move should be employed to “Penetrate the minds of the mass
public who practices FC.” The media is also responsible to
de-bunk superstitions and myths regarding women’s bodies (to introduce
FGC practitioners to non-circumcised women).
FGC and Social Work
What is the position of the Future Girls Development Association
Dr. Randa Risk, Chair, FGDA
The FGDA is conducting research on public opinion amongst youth
in Egypt in regards to FC, and is learning that young men are very
convinced with the practice of, according to Dr. Risk. She adds
that intervention programs should target grandmothers who possess
most influence in women’s lives, more so than male family members
at times. The FGDA calls for using popular culture to address FC
in Egypt, and to invite celebrities in the anti-FGC campaign to
promote anti-FGC messages. G
Q&A, and General Audience Comments
· Government sponsored messages are often regarded with
suspicion and contempt. Anti-FGC messages should not be tailored
by groups affiliated with the Egyptian government. Dr. Asaad added
to this by highlighting the success of the positive deviance approach
in combating FGC.
· What are the psycho-sexual effects of FC? Dr. Mahmoud Karim
responded by clarifying that FC does not eliminate sexual desire
but renders the woman incapable of achieving orgasm. He also called
for the establishment of a health clinic to address the psycho-sexual
problems of women in Egypt.
· Have there been any organized efforts for a movement to
address Egypt’s disregard of international human and women’s rights
declarations, particularly using Egyptian media to raise awareness
on the existence of these international declarations, reminding
the public that Egypt has signed such protocols?
· Another participant expressed her desire to hear views
promoting FGC, and noted that similar seminars and panel discussions
appear to bring together those who share common views towards FGC.
Calling for a more balanced meeting.
Afterthoughts, topics for research and
· Prostitution and Female Genital Cutting in Egypt, Prevalence
and De-Bunking Myths.
· Drug-Use Amongst Egyptian Women in Relationship to FGC.