The United Nations Sustainable Development has presented a proposal to completely abolish and prevent female genital mutilation by the year 2030. While the proposal has been welcomed by activists and people who are completely against the notion, Amel Fahmy, co-founder of the HarassMap initiative, says it's simply impossible in Egypt.
The proposal tackles eliminating FGM with a multi-focused plan including creating a powerful movement to reach young girls and women who have been violated while pushing the Egyptian government and other parties to do their part. It also calls for pushing legislation to criminalize FGM and provide needed reinforcement and help to those young girls and women who need it. The proposal will also work with health workers and change popular public concepts and traditions through the power of mass media while empowering girls and women.
Fahmy, who is also the managing director of Tadwein, a gender research center, wrote an article for Open Democracy saying that such efforts were done before and had little success.
According to Egypt Independent, Fahmy has worked with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund on gender-based violence and said that most awareness campaigns in the last 12 years that attempted to eliminate FGM in the country have been created by the government. However, these campaigns only carry out two messages: FGM is not called for by any religion and FGM has negative physical effects.
FGM, a different form violence against women that is generally culturally accepted in Egypt, will not end until a women's sexual rights and freedoms are addressed, Fahmy warned.
“Without a full exploration of the relationship between sexual norms and FGM in Egypt, it will be difficult if not impossible to totally eliminate the practice.” Fahmy explained.
Another element that needs to be discussed is male dominance and the need to control women and their bodies. It's a popular perception accepted by both men and women that women need to be tamed and restrained. In a study conducted by the Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) done in 2014, data show that 21.4 percent of girls under the age of 19 have gone through FGM while 34.9 percent of mothers intend to circumcise daughters.
Another study done in 2010 by three students at the American University in Cairo revealed that men felt "superior" to women and feel that it was their responsibility to protect their daughters and wives and prevent them from committing premarital sex and extramarital sex, with FGM the tool of choice. Alarmingly, the majority of men interviewed for this study believe that women who do not undergo FGM become "sex-crazed" and are sexually demanding.
Lastly, the results of a study done by the Survey of Young People in Egypt showed that up to 70.7 percent of young Egyptian women and 68.6 percent of young Egyptian men agreed with the "necessity" FGM and said they intend to put circumcise their daughters. With this as a common public perception, FGM will not be eliminated or criminalized in the future.