Several African countries have been making great efforts to wipe out the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation. But an Israeli web site reports that Egyptian legislators have just made the practice legal.
Egypt’s last week took several steps back into the dark ages. Conservative lawmakers made female genital mutilation (circumcision) legal again in Egypt. They also revoked a law limiting marriage age to 18 and up, a law permitting a mother to register a child on her name and a law allowing neighbors of a family that beats its children to report the abuse to authorities. The decision to cancel the laws also counters international human rights agreements signed by Egypt.
It was less than a year ago that FGM was banned in Egypt, according to a report in the Economist of July 5, 2007:
The ensuing outcry [after a girl died during the procedure] has prompted Egypt’s health minister to announce a formal and absolute ban on female circumcision, more often known as female genital mutilation (FGM). Moreover, this secular ruling is being backed by the country’s top Muslim and Christian clerics. The grand mufti, the most senior official issuing Islamic legal opinions, declared on television that circumcision is forbidden, repeating his words three times for emphasis.
The Economist article goes on to say that the practice is deeply ingrained in Egypt; 97 percent of married women say they have been cut. (The Economist uses the term “circumcised” but that is a misleading word, making it seem identical to men’s circumcision, which it is not.)
Still, as elsewhere in Africa, there has been a slow change in Egyptian attitudes. Since 1995, the percentage of mothers who say that they support circumcision has fallen from 82% to 68%. Among educated and wealthier women, that percentage is now barely a third.
…A majority of Egyptians also believe FGM to be religiously sanctioned, a reflection of the power of conservative clerics who have portrayed opposition to the practice as inspired by hostility to the faith.
If support for FGM is falling among the people, but Muslim clerics managed to reverse a previous ban and get it made legal again, it sounds like a situation ripe for conflict.
We don’t have Egyptian refugees, so what’s the connection to Refugee Resettlement Watch ? It’s one more portrayal of the power of traditional practices, which we’ve commented on time after time here in connection with refugees who can’t seem to adjust to American ways. Some cultural differences, like female genital mutilation, are just unacceptable in our country.
Update June 9, 2008: Egypt’s parliament just outlawed female genital mutilation — I posted on it here. I don’t know what the source for this post could have been referring to — I never saw another reference to it anywhere else.