The World Health Organization defines Female Genital Mutilation as a practice that involves the alteration of female genitalia in a manner that does not relay any medical benefits to the victim. According to Oleinick (1998), around 87% of Egyptian Islamic women support the practice. The extent of this support is attributable to various factors. These may be cultural, religious or social. The purpose of this study was to find out the current state of FGM as a cultural practice in Egypt. Secondly, the study wanted to probe useful strategies in eliminating FGM. Finally, the study was to highlight the impacts of FGM on the global healthcare system. The research uses a longitudinal approach.
Various factors make the Egyptian people susceptible to the practise of FGM. Firstly are the socio-demographic characteristics. These include factors such as age, income, religion, marital status and level of income. Islam considers FGM as ‘makruma’. This implies that it is not a mandatory, but honourable act. According to National Geographic Statistics, the country’s literacy level stands at 58%. There is limited knowledge on the implications of the practice.
In Egypt, communities enforce FGM through various actions. For instance, women who do not participate are often ostracised from the community. The fact that it is a societal norm also permits the practice. Eighty-two percent of Egyptian women recommend FGM for their daughters. Various factors in the Egyptian society reinforce this practice. Circumcised women consider themselves ‘clean’. Egyptians credit FGM as a tool for reducing a woman’s libido, alongside other psychosexual effects, in limiting adultery.
These factors prompt a majority of women to seek or participate in FGM. Consequently, over 90% of Egyptian women have participated. This is indiscriminate to religious factors. For instance, 78% of Christian women have participated. This prevalence is attributable to various factors. The most important are religion and Egyptian culture. From the study, FGM is more of a cultural practice. The Quran has vague support for the practice. The existence of FGM preceded Islam. There is little correlation between the two phenomena. FGM is non-existent in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, where religion is highly regarded (Oleinick, 1998).
According to the Toubia, Izzett & WHO (1998), the practice is a violation of human and gender rights. However, campaigners have made various mistakes in the effort against FGM. To correct this, various strategies need implementation during intervention. For instance, the approach taken should be multi-sectoral. Participants may be from the health or legal communities. Community groups should be able to work hand-in-hand with NGOs. The process of behaviour change is a slow one. To eradicate FGM, the efforts have to be sustainable.
The enlisting of support by leaders from various fields is crucial. For instance, religious leaders such as Imams are influential in discrediting the practice. Many people immigrate to Western countries, such as the United Kingdom (UK) to avoid this ill practice. Consequently, the study discovered that immigrants who have undergone FGM experience complications. These may be haemorrhages and other effects. This becomes a problem for the healthcare systems of the resident countries.
There are many barriers to the elimination of FGM. Firstly, Egypt is a vast country. The country has many sparsely populated regions, whose inhabitants participate in FGM. Accessing such areas is difficult. Secondly, the country has poor educational standards. Around 60% of participants were ignorant of FGM’s implications. The Egyptian social attitude has been against Western ideals since the 1940s. Therefore, ideas promoted by bodies such as the WHO are often rejected. Finally, Egyptians are afraid of cultural repercussions such as shunning and curses, by failing to participate in FGM (Olenick, 1998).
According to Celenko (1996), there is evidence of a Greek papyrus that describes the practice in the Ancient Egyptian context. Egypt is a predominantly Muslim state. Therefore, religion intertwines with culture. It is important to note that Egypt has a paternal culture. Consequently, they carry out FGM as an act of submitting women to men. Secondly, FGM has a close relation to marriage. The study discovered that circumcised women have better prospects of getting married. Religious and political influences are the main barriers towards the complete elimination of FGM. Here, the international community comes to focus. Campaigners should not impose their ideologies on the Egyptians. Instead, they should take a subjective approach.
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