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A press release in response to a statement by a Parliament member regarding female genital mutilation

A press release in response to a statement by a Parliament member regarding female genital mutilation

On Monday, July 11th 2016, we were surprised by the issuance of a statement by Dr Ahmed El-Tahawy, a member of the Egyptian Parliament. He stressed the necessity of female circumcision, in response to a memorandum regarding the toughening of the penalty for female circumcision presented by the National Population Council. The words of the representative were shocking and unfair to Egyptian women, who are exposed to psychological, physical and sexual harm as a result of this bad habit.

The MP’s statements ignore the fact that Egypt criminalizes circumcision, which is stated in Article 242 bis of the Penal Code of 2008, which provides for the criminalization of female circumcision. This Law was issued upon the approval of the same Egyptian parliament of which Dr El-Tahawy is a member. This situation also contradicts the official situation of the Egyptian government against female circumcision.

Egypt had previously signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women “CEDAW Convention” on September 18th 1981, which criminalizes practices of violence against women, including female circumcision. In addition, Egypt hosted the International Conference on Population and Development, which was held in September 1994. The conference document included an Article which is clearly and directly criminalizing female circumcision. This is in addition to many international conventions and covenants signed by the Egyptian government, all of which criminalize female circumcision.

Through his statements, the MP stressed the need to refer to doctors regarding female circumcision. “We are supposed to refer to people of knowledge and deal with the issue in a scientific, medical and legal manner”, said the MP, forgetting that female circumcision operation are totally contrary to the ethics and morals of the medical profession. This practice involves the amputation of a part of the body for no reason or benefit, and it is practised on children without their knowledge or consent.

Honorable MP, there is no “medical form” of female circumcision, and there is no relationship between medicine and female circumcision. It is neither taught in medical colleges or institutes nor mentioned in specialized medical curricula or references. There is no difference between a medicine that practices circumcision or a midwife who practices that custom. In addition, your words contradict the words and promises of the Minister of Health and Population, Dr. Ahmed Emad Radi, in which he pledged to eradicate “female circumcision medicine” and support the “Doctors against Female Circumcision” initiative to form a public opinion within the medical community that rejects this practice. Knowing that Egypt is one of the countries in the world where female circumcision is “medicalised” – according to the results of the Population Health Survey 2014 – more than 70% of circumcision operations are performed by doctors.

Honorable MP, your words regarding the effect of female circumcision on sexual relations are completely contradictory and against reality. The testimony of many women, who have undergone this practice, showed the extent of their physical, psychological and marital suffering as a result of what they were subjected to as a result of the circumcision operations.

“..as a doctor, when we leave the female without circumcision, it causes infection, as well as unwanted sexual arousal which leads to major problems”

Your words, Honorable MP, were not “scientific” or “medical” as you called them. Rather, they reflect the moral authority that men exercise over women’s bodies, and through which they determine which part of the woman’s body must be amputated, how and when it is to be done, and to what extent a woman can enjoy her sexual life. You have positioned yourself as the guardian of women, defending their honour and their chastity and requesting their circumcision, ignoring your role as a doctor concerned with avoiding harm, promoting professional ethics. You are also ignoring your position as a parliamentarian, which should reflect the official state stand against FGM.

Your Excellency, without unified anti-FGM positions of the state representatives, we will not be able to end this harmful and inhumane practice.

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