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EGYPT: UNICEF: Egypt among leading nations battling female circumcision

Thursday, September 13, 2007
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CAIRO, Egypt: Egypt has moved to the forefront among nations attempting to eradicate female circumcision, UNICEF said Thursday, applauding efforts by the government and religious leaders in the country.

The praise by the international rights group comes amid controversy in Egypt over two young girls who died over the summer from the operation, also known as female genital mutilation, which is widely practiced by both Muslims and Christians in the country.

The death of one of the girls, a 12-year-old from Upper Egypt, prompted First Lady Suzanne Mubarak to announce a national campaign aimed at drawing more attention to female circumcision and accelerating efforts to end the practice, the report said.

Female genital mutilation usually involves the removal of the clitoris and other parts of female genitalia. Those who practice it say it tames a girl's sexual desire and maintains her honor.

The government passed a decree in June prohibiting female circumcision, overriding a 1996 measure that gave leeway to medical professionals to perform the operation, according to UNICEF. The ban is not as enforceable as a law, which requires passage in the national legislature.

Meanwhile, Egypt's highest Islamic authorities condemned female circumcision, saying the practice has nothing to do with Islam.

One of the most active organizations in the country has been the National Council on Childhood and Motherhood, which works with partners in 120 villages in Upper and Lower Egypt, according to the report.

"Since 2002, the NCCM has led the national movement against FGM/C (female genital mutilation) at both national and sub-national levels, and has succeeded in building partnerships with the different governmental, non-governmental, donor and U.N. stakeholders to advocate against the practice," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.

NCCM's efforts have led several Egyptian villages to denounce female circumcision, part of the positive trend in the country, said UNICEF.

A 2003 survey by UNICEF said that 97 percent of married women in Egypt had undergone genital mutilation. But the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey has projected that the prevalence of the practice will decline from around 80 percent among girls aged 15-17 to around 60 percent for the same age group in around a decade, according to the report.

Source: International Herald Tribune
Published on: September 13, 2007
URL: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/13/africa/ME-GEN-Egypt-UNICEF-Female-Circumcision.php
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