Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

Egyptian doctors campaign against genital cutting

The death of a girl aged 12 during FGM spurred the launch of the ‘White Coats’ campaign to end the illegal practice

A counsellor tres to convince women they should not have female genital mutilation performed on their daughters in Minia, Egypt, in June 2006. Reuters
A counsellor tres to convince women they should not have female genital mutilation performed on their daughters in Minia, Egypt, in June 2006. Reuters

Doctors in Egypt are campaigning about the dangers of female genital mutilation after the death of a girl aged 12, saying they do not want their white coats “stained with blood”.

FGM was banned in Egypt in 2008 but remains common – a 2016 survey by the UN Children’s Fund showed 87 per cent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 had undergone the procedure.

“We want to send a message to other doctors that we do not want our white coats to be stained with blood as well as to citizens that medicine refuses this practice,” said campaign organiser Randa Fakhr El Deen, head of the NGOs Union Against Harmful Practices on Women and Children.

“Some ultraconservatives were not convinced of what we were saying, but we opened a discussion with them, responded to their arguments and answered all their questions.”

Posters with the slogans “No to FGM” and “FGM is a Crime” have been posted at a Cairo metro station, where doctors in white coats gave out leaflets.

Dr El Deen said they had been challenged at the station by proponents of the procedure.

“It is a religious thing. Do you want to change religion?” said metro user Ibrahim Hassan in response to the White Coats campaign. “You only listen to what the West is saying.”

In response, Fakhr El Deen told Hassan that FGM had no basis in religion and was not taught in medical schools in Egypt.

World leaders have pledged to eradicate FGM by 2030, but campaigners say the ancient ritual, which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, remains deeply entrenched in many places.

The potentially deadly practice can cause long-lasting mental and physical health problems including chronic infections, menstrual problems, infertility, and pregnancy and childbirth complications.

Last month Egyptian authorities arrested a retired doctor on charges of carrying out FGM, which is illegal, and causing the girl’s death. Her parents were also arrested.

All have since been released, but investigations continue and campaigners against FGM say they expect them to face trial.

The ritual is often justified for cultural or religious reasons in conservative societies.

Women and children’s rights groups in Egypt say the ban has not been well enforced and that much of society is permissive of FGM, which is widely practised by both Christians and Muslims.

The majority of FGM procedures are carried out by doctors and nurses at private clinics, with the rest done at home, found the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey of 2014.

Updated: February 12, 2020 02:24 PM

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