Egypt's primary Forensic Medicine Department spokesperson, Dr. Hesham Abdel Hamid, recently revealed that 70 to 80 percent of all Egyptian women can not reach sexual orgasm due to female genital mutilation (FGM), local media reported on Sunday.
According to Abdel Hamid, medical reports confirm that the practice causes extreme delays in the female sexual response cycle and therefore leaves its victims unable to reach orgasm.
The forensic expert also described some worrisome physical side effects of the practice, which include severe physical pain, bleeding and risk of wound infection. He also highlighted its psychological effects, saying victims of the practice often develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
FGM, which is defined as a "partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons" by the World Health Organization (WHO), is extremely common in Egypt.
According to a 2014 survey, 92% of Egyptian women aged between 15 and 49 have been circumcised.
"Seen from a human rights perspective, the practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women."
Egypt's government fighting against the practice
As part of the ongoing crackdown on FGM, Egypt's government has passed a law that increases the penalty for female genital mutilation.
Perpetrators of the practice can now face between five and seven years in prison. If the mutilation leads to permanent disability or death, the perpetrator then faces up to 15 years.
Before the law took effect in 2016, the practice was classified as a misdemeanor and carried a penalty of three months to a maximum of three years in prison.
However, many in the country continue to practice FGM illegally and the government continues to campaign against it.
A universal problem
Even though FGM is "primarily concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East," it is also practiced in some Asian and Latin American countries and is considered a universal problem according to WHO.
"It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated."
It is also estimated that 3 million girls are at risk of female genital mutilation every year, with the majority being under 15 years of age.
FGM has nothing to do with religion
Even though people often erroneously link FGM to religion, the practice has nothing to do with any faith and predates both Christianity and Islam, according to Human Rights Watch.
The human rights organization stresses the important role religious leaders have when it comes to disassociating the practice from religion.
On their website, they also add that FGM has already been denounced by many religious authorities and its association to Islam in particular has been "refuted by many Muslim scholars and theologians who say that FGM is not prescribed in the Quran and is contradictory to the teachings of Islam."
Women in the region are still subject to regressive practices
While FGM takes center stage as one of the most horrific practices that are enforced on women, the risk of other regressive customs imposed on them is still high.
Just last year, Elhamy Ageena, a member of Parliament in Egypt, asked universities to impose virginity tests on female university students.
In an interview with Youm7, he said that the Ministry of Higher Education should make these tests a prerequisite for enrollment.
"Any girl applying to university should be tested to prove that she is a 'Miss' – a virgin. Each and every female applicant should present forward an official document that confirms she is a virgin. This should be done in an effort to eradicate this spreading phenomena of urfi marriage in Egypt," Ageena said.
The MP's proposal and comments sparked outrage in the country.
According to CNN, NGOs, politicians and women's rights advocates all condemned his statements; "the National Council for Women, as well as the President of Cairo University, called for him to be stripped of his parliamentary immunity" too.