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Egypt bans female circumcision

2nd July 2007

The Egyptian government has announced a total ban on health professionals carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision.

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The move comes after a young girl died during the procedure, which is widespread in many parts of Africa and the Middle East. It is an apparent reinforcement of an earlier ban on the practice 10 years ago, which nonetheless allowed for 'exceptional circumstances'.

No medical professional will now be allowed to perform the operation in public or in private. The procedure can involve removing the clitoris, or large parts of the vulva.

FGM is known to be a very painful practice that sometimes leads to excessive bleeding, infection, trauma and difficulties in childbirth.

Girls who do not undergo the procedure are regarded as less marriageable, because it is associated in some cultures with chastity.

Those who broke the law would be punished, a health ministry spokesman said.

The death of a 12-year-old girl in Upper Egypt a few days ago triggered an angry barrage of appeals from human rights groups to both the government and the medical profession to act swiftly and stamp out the practice.

The doctor who carried out the operation has since been arrested.

The ban also comes after a concerted campaign by Egypt's first lady, Susanne Mubarak, who has said the practice constitutes both physical and psychological violence against children.

Religious leaders have also spoken in support of banning FGM, saying it has no basis in either the Quran or the Bible.

Around 90% of Egyptian women are believed to have been circumcised, in Muslim and Christian families in Egypt and in other African countries.

FGM is thought to date back to an ancient Egyptian rite of passage and is more common in rural areas.

Earlier this year, the government of Eritrea also banned FGM following a long campaign by women's rights groups.

 

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