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7 False Myths About FGM

As Egypt launches its massive anti-female genital mutilation campaign today, we take a look at some of the most common misconceptions about the barbaric and dangerous practice that still affects millions of women yearly.

Staff Writer

The barbaric practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) has long been a prevalent act amongst Egyptian society – as of 2014, according to the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey, a shocking 92% of Egyptian married women were recorded as having gone through the procedure, roughly 27 million women. Though the practice was technically outlawed in 2008, and deemed a criminal act, unfortunately it still continues, albeit at a decreased rate. Among girls aged 15-17, according to the EDHS survey, numbers have decreased to around 60% a significant drop, but still a significant amount overall.

However, in a bid to curb FGM in the country, a new campaign will be launched today, on Egypt’s National Anti-FGM Day to fight the practice. The launch of the campaign, titled Stop FGM Against Girls, will be held today with a conference currently underway. At the event, the focus will be on how to combat the practice, which still continues at ridiculous rates in Egypt. In light of this day, we decided to clarify a number of myths that surround the practice of FGM. You can follow updates from the conference on Twitter with the hashtag #EndFGM. 

1. It is a Muslim practice. The practice is in no way related to religion. Though Muslims do carry it out, Christians do as well. However, there is nothing in the Quran or Bible which allows the mutilation of women and the origins of FGM are actually linked to Pharaonic heritage and African tribal rituals. 

A symposium for religious leaders and medical personnel on FGM as a form of violence was organised by the IAC in collaboration with the Gambian Committee on Traditional Practices in Banjul, Gambia from 20-23 July, 1998. The participants reached the conclusion that FGM is not prescribed by any religion and that their teaching does not advocate mutilation and they have resolved to fight against its practice.

As we speak, at Egypt’s conference, the Minister of Health Dr. Adel Adawy has just said, “There are no religious justifications for Female Genital Mutilation.”

According to Amnesty International Ireland’s End FGM European campaign: although it is “predominant among Muslims, FGM also occurs among Christians animists and Jews."

2. It is legal. The practice was actually outlawed by Egyptian law in 2008, and religious authorities have issued Fatwas and declarations against it since 2006.

3. It is violence from men towards women. It is often mothers who take their girls to do it. “The strange thing is that most women break into tears when speaking about it, but they are the same women who do that to their children because of community pressure,” says Dr. Magdy Ahmed, a member of the NGOs Coalition Against FGM.

4. It is related to cleanliness and health. In reality FGM can create uncleanliness by closing the vulva and preventing the natural flow of urine and menstrual flow and consequently leading to the retention of urine and menstrual blood, causing an offensive smell. According to WHO, The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women, and instead can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections and infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

5. It is the same as male circumcision. The two are nothing alike. Male circumcision, a practice which is commonplace in many countries and religion, but is largely painless and leaves no long term damage to men. The practice of FGM, however, leaves irreversible physical and psychological damage to the girl throughout her life. “It’s the worst form of child sexual abuse ever known to mankind,” as Egyptian doctor Dr. Alyaa Gad said in an interview.

There are no lasting negative health outcomes for men who are circumcised, but studies show that FGM can lead to pregnancy and childbirth related complications, among other health issues.

6. It only happens in small, rural areas. According to the 2008 EDHS demographic survey, 91% of Egyptian women between 15 and 49 years old have suffered the practice.

7. It prevents the girl from being promiscuous. This is one of the misconceptions that leads to FGM. However, studies related to this issue clearly display its falsity. In a paper by John Lekan Oyefara about the myths and realities of FGM, a study conducted showed that women who had been circumcised did in fact have lower sexual desire than uncircumcised women, because you have effectively butchered someone's genitalia. However, the same study also found that the rate of extra-marital sexual affairs for circumcised women was 16.2%, while for uncircumcised women it was 3.6%, clearly displaying that the practice of FGM does nothing to curb so called 'promiscuity'.  


بمناسبة "اليوم الدولي لعدم التسامح مطلقا إزاء تشويه الأعضاء التناسلية للإناث" بالأمم المتحدة إينفوجراف برعاية صندوق الأمم المتحدة للسكان للقضاء على ظاهرة ختان الإناث #لا_لختان_الإناث Infograph presented by UNFPA Country Office on the occasion of "International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation” this day will be marked under the theme of ending Female Genital Mutilation, this video is presented by UNFPA EgyptSpread the word with these hashtags #EndFGM #FGM #Egypt

Posted by Unfpa - Egypt Country Office on Sunday, 14 June 2015
Video by UNFPA.
Main photo by UNFPA.