The recently released 2008 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS), conducted by the Egyptian Ministry of Health (MOH) and El-Zanaty and Associates, shows a marked decrease in the rate of female genital mutilation (FGM) in young women in Egypt. In a previous Ministry of Health survey, conducted in 2005, almost 96% of married adult women were found to have undergone the procedure, and today approximately 90% of Egyptian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone the procedure. But today the rate for younger women is getting lower, with FGM done to 81% of girls between the age of 15 and 19. Lower rates of FGM are also associated with women who have received an education. 87% of women with a secondary education have undergone FGM, while 98% of those who were never educated have undergone FGM.
FGM refers to a procedure or series of procedures practiced primarily in east Africa and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa and involves removing some or all of a female’s external genitalia. The surgery is usually done when the girl is between the ages of 7 and 13, and while sometimes performed by a doctor, it is often performed by a barber or family member. Adherents to the practice believe that it makes a girl more likely to be chaste and more desirable for marriage.
The study also showed that women’s attitudes towards FGM are changing. In 1995, 82% of married women in Egypt supported FGM, while in 2008 it had decreased to 63%. FGM has been banned by the Ministry of Health in Egypt since 1996, with exceptions allowed only for emergencies. Prominent women such as Mosheira Khattab, head of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, and Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of President Hosni Mubarak, have been speaking out against the practice of FGM, and government and non-profit groups have launched numerous conferences and educational campaigns. Increased publicity and more open dialogue may have helped in decreasing the rate of FGM in young girls since 2005.
Compiled from: “Female Circumcision Decreasing among Young Women in Egypt,” Measure Demographic and Health Surveys (23 June 2009); "Voices Rise in Egypt to Shield Girls from an Old Tradition,” The New York Times, (20 September 2007).