5 December 2014
Female Genital Mutilation
During the semester, I read multiple news articles and documents on women’s rights in Egypt. During the research process, I came across multiple articles discussing the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Egypt. It was then that I turned my research to FGM but also focus on how it is a violation of women’s rights. Over 90% of women in Egypt have been victims of female circumcision (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29735574). Women’s rights have been an issue in almost every country not just Egypt. In order to make improvements for women, there are other areas that need attention such as why men superior. The root of the problem needs to be addressed before women’s rights can be improved in Egypt.
Sexism is extremely rooted in Egypt. Men have always been dominant and because of this, sexual assault is common in most relationships and marriages. The article, Egypt’s Deep-Seated Culture of Sexism (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/13753-egypts-deep-seated-culture-of-sexism) reports on how men in Egypt believe that they are superior to women because the Quran implies that God has given men the right to command women. This is a religious belief that is strongly practiced throughout Egypt and it is evident that gender decides how others treat you. Due to sexism, women undergo harassment and the numbers of women that hold seats in the government are extremely low. Sexual harassment is a huge problem that continues to occur. In June 2014, President Adly Mansour approved of a law that set out five-year sentences for sexual harassment. However, in order for the person to be arrested, the women must call the police to notify them of the situation. Unfortunately, it is known that when a woman reports her husband for abuse, the police will call the husband and have her taken home. No punishments are given and police do not take the women serious. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women reported in 2013 that 99.3% of women in Egypt have experienced some form of sexual harassment. (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/13753-egypts-deep-seated-culture-of-sexism)
Female Genital mutilation was criminalized in 2008 but continues to occur. FGM has three different types, type one, two, and three. Type two, which is the removal of the prepuce and clitoral all together, is most common. Type three is the most dangerous and destructive and involves the removal of part or all of external genitalia and narrowing of the vaginal opening. It is rare that type three is performed. In the past, dayas or midwives with no medical degree conducted the procedure at a home. However before it was outlawed, licensed doctors performed FGM in hospitals and clinics. Although banned, doctors continued practicing FGM in private homes or clinics. Older women who were victims of FGM were given no anesthetic for the pain. However, the older women stated that an anesthetic was given to daughters to help avoid any infections. (http://2001-2009.state.gov/g/wi/rls/rep/crfgm/10096.htm)
Suhair was a 13-year-old girl who did not survive the FGM procedure. Her father took her to Dr. Halawa clinic to have the procedure done. Suhair died shortly after the completion of the procedure. Halawa claims he was seeing Suhair for genital wart treatment and did not perform FGM. He stated she passed away from having an allergic reaction to penicillin that was not prescribed by him. Individuals indicated that Halawa’s clinic was well known for FGM and at least twelve procedures were completed daily. Currently, doctors perform 70% of FGM procedures in Egypt, which is considered safer. However, doctors are not taught how to perform FGM in medical school and it can be assumed that many more young girls are dying from the side effects. The number of girls who have died due to FGM is unknown because the deaths are recorded as hemorrhages or allergic reactions to penicillin. Dr. Hulawa and Suhair’s father were sent to trial. It is the first case of FGM that has been sent to trial and opponents hope that this will be the beginning of stopping FGM completely (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27322088)
If carried out successfully, Female genital mutilation can lead to additional complications for the women during childbirth. Because the vaginal opening is closed and only a small slit, the size of a matchstick is left open, childbirth can be extremely painful. Women have died from bleeding to death because of FGM. (http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/advice/a6504/female-genital-mutilation-survivor-stories/)
Women’s rights are not only an issue in Egypt. Although other countries, such as the United States offer laws to protect women, there are still issues that need to be addressed. Chapter eleven in Controversies of Globalization talks about whether the United States should promote women’s rights in developing nations and whether or not women’s rights are important. It states that millions of young girls are not enrolled in school because they are expected to take care of the home. Women’s equality is necessary for the development of the economy as well as reducing the population growth. With that being said, it is necessary for the women in Egypt to have their rights protected by better laws. Considering that sexism is popular in Egypt, it will be harder to enforce such laws for women. Religion plays a huge role in how the men treat women and in order to come around those beliefs one must be open minded. For example, the United States claims that both women and men have equal rights, but there are facts that disprove that. Just like Egypt, there are high numbers of sexual harassment in America but law enforcement is known to help the victim despite gender. Western countries are known to have better rights for women than eastern countries.
Education plays a huge part in women’s rights. A large percentage of mothers that make their daughters undergo FGM have little to no education. Educating women is not seen as necessary in Egypt. The typical woman is responsible for taking care of the household such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of her husband and children. It important to recognize that an uneducated person cannot does not have all the information or resources to make an educated decision. Chapter eleven also mentions that it is necessary for women to be educated to make proper decisions in important topics such as family-planning. This ties into FGM in Egypt. A study has proven that uneducated women are more likely to have their daughters undergo the procedure. Not only is FGM banned in Egypt but it is also a risky procedure that causes both bodily and emotional harm to women. Education can be the answer for helping out a stop to FGM. The more that women are educated may help decrease the amount of young girls being circumcised in Egypt. (http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/4/07-042093/en/)
Women’s rights were a popular topic during the Arab Spring. During the 2011 uprisings, a study was conducted that found Egypt to be the worst out of twenty-two countries for women’s rights. Mohamed Mursi, President of Egypt during the uprisings, claimed that the most important thing for a woman to do is bear children and be a mother. The Muslim Brotherhood claimed that women would destroy society if they were allowed to make their own decisions. The Arab Spring Uprising was an ongoing battle for women’s rights. After Mursi was removed as president, slight improvements were made for women’s rights. Women were not afraid to share their opinions during the uprisings. It was a time period where the women knew it was time to stand up and fight for change. This was not an easy step for women; many of them were sexually assaulted by police officers when they protested against military rule. (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-24908109)
After researching FGM and women’s rights in Egypt, I have a better understanding of women and society in the Middle East. I do believe that education is necessary for women to make proper choices not only for themselves but their families as well. Also, educating the male population that women could in fact help society rather than destroy it could help with the issues Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries are facing. It is important for the government and law enforcement to enforce the laws that are in place. A law is useless if officials do not enforce it properly. Punishments need to be given to those who violate the laws. Overall, Egypt is deeply rooted in sexism and it is going to take a lot of effort to make noticeable changes for women’s rights. Since religion plays a major part in how women are treated, I think the issue of gender inequality and women’s rights will remain for many years to come.