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Female Circumcision in Egyp

    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.

    Religious Perspectives

    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

    of FC?

    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

    in Egypt?

    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

    towards FGC?

    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.