Egypt: “Medicalization” of FGM Risks Legitimizing a Harmful Practice
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 3:45 PM

The death of a 13-year-old Egyptian girl from complications incurred during female genital mutilation (FGM) performed by a doctor at an Egyptian clinic has drawn attention to the “medicalization” of FGM. FGM is a harmful practice with severe effects on women and girls’ mental and physical health. There are various justifications for the procedure; in Egypt, for example, it is thought to “reduce sexual desire.” However, FGM serves no medical purpose and has many health complications.
The trend of performing FGM in hospitals or clinics adversely affects efforts to abolish FGM. Although supporters of this medicalization trend argue that it is safer than the alternative—FGM performed by unlicensed and untrained persons without proper tools or sterilization—opponents to FGM note that performing the procedure in a clinical setting legitimizes this harmful practice.
The Egyptian government banned the procedure in 2008 but it is still performed by some medical professionals as well as traditional practitioners. The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) are calling for Egypt to prosecute the doctor in question under this law. This is not the first time a child has died from FGM conducted in a hospital setting. Although the high rate of FGM in Egypt appears to be decreasing, immediate enforcement of the ban on the procedure is needed to ensure that the trend of medicalization of FGM does not threaten efforts to eradicate the practice.