Elminating female genital mutilation (FGM)

According to Egypt’s Demographic and Health Survey of 2014[1], 92 per cent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years have undergone some form of female genital mutilation (FGM), although there is evidence that the practice is declining, given that the prevalence is lower among girls aged 15 to 19 – approx. 87 per cent. Meanwhile, just over half of Egyptians think FGM should continue, and a similar proportion believe the practice is required by religion.

Within UN Women’s wider support to the National Committee to Eliminate FGM in Egypt— co-chaired by the National Council for Women (NCW) and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM)— UN Women has supported the ‘National Mega-Campaign’ on Combatting FGM as a widely recognized act of gender-based violence that is expected to spike in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. UN Women contributed to outreach efforts that have reached more than 10 million women, men and youth across Egypt’s 27 governorates. With the generous contribution of the Government of the United Kingdom, UN Women has directly contributed to making 3 million people aware of FGM as a harmful practice, as well as protection methods and information in light of COVID-19. The campaign is led by the NCW, in coordination with the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) and the NCCM.

UN Women’s previous efforts to combat FGM include its interventions through the “Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation and the Empowerment of Families Joint Programme” supported by UN Women, UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA, and implemented in partnership with national and civil society organizations. The joint programme sought to institutionalize and scale-up the fight against FGM, enhance coordination, and strengthen monitoring and evaluation. It sought to create and sustain a political, legal and social environment that empowers families and communities to abandon FGM and other forms of violence against children, especially girls. To this end, it successfully created connections at the local level with relevant stakeholders, including medical doctors and religious leaders to support the project efforts.

Operating in 160 villages in 10 governorates, the programme succeeded in lobbying and advocating with religious leaders to issue religious rulings (Fatwas) against FGM. The project also increased the awareness of medical doctors regarding the harmful impacts of FGM. It engaged with the MoHP Department of Supervision of Private Practices to ensure that they are part of the fight against FGM, as most cases occur in private clinics. The joint programme also worked with judges and prosecutors to bring to light cases of FGM, while lobbying the Government to amend the Penal Code. 

In August 2016, Egypt’s Lower House of Parliament approved the amendment of article 242 (bis) of the Penal Code, which previously criminalized the act of FGM as a misdemeanor with penalties of between three months and two years in prison for practitioners who commit the offense. Under the new amendment, practitioners will be subject to imprisonment of between five and seven years – or up to 15 years if the procedure leads to death or deformity.

The Joint Programme was implemented from 2011–2017, with the generous support of the European Union.

[1] Egypt’s Demographic and Health Survey of 2014 http://www.enow.gov.eg/Report/DHS-2014-Ar.pdf