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Roughly 92 percent of Egyptian women who have been married have undergone female genital mutilation, according to a recent survey from the government’s Ministry of Health. The number has decreased since the last statistic released in 2000, but it is still alarmingly high considering the practice was criminalized in Egypt in 2008.
The majority of women who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) were between nine and 12 years old, Egypt’s Minister of Health Adel Adawy said. Data was pulled from a poll that surveyed women in Egypt between 15 and 49 years old. A similar poll conducted in 2000 found that 97 percent of women had experienced FGM.
The trend is particularly rampant in Egypt’s rural areas, where 95 percent of women said they had undergone the process. These women were also more likely not to have the procedure performed by licensed health practitioners, as less than one-third of Egypt’s FGMs are not carried out by doctors.
The procedure “interferes with the natural function of girls’ and women’s bodies,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “The practice causes severe pain and has several immediate and long-term health consequences, including difficulties in childbirth also causing dangers to the child.”
FGM, also known as female circumcision, is a process where all or most of the external female genitalia is removed. The exact procedure varies from country to country, but most operations are carried out using a circumcision blade or razor and anesthetics may or may not be used. There are no documented health benefits of FGM.
Thirty percent of women in Egypt believe the procedure should be banned, according to the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey. However, more than half said they were in favor of FGM, as it was in accordance with certain cultural traditions that are thought to be supported but not mandated by religion.
In certain cultures, a woman must undergo a circumcision to be considered pure and prepared for marriage. It also functions as a way to reduce the woman’s temptation toward infidelity during the marriage, as the libido is significantly decreased.
According to WHO, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea and Somalia had an over 90 percent prevalence rate of FGM among women as of 2008.