Egypt's 100-year-old struggle to end FGM

For over a century, Egypt has been struggling against female genital mutilation (FGM, a crime causing psychological, cultural, and social ramifications.


Cairo -The wave of anti-FGM protests continues in Egypt, as NGOs in general and feminist organizations in particular work to highlight the extent of this phenomenon and its deep-rooted societal effects in the hearts of citizens due to a set of inherited customs and cultures. 15-year-old Badour Shaker died during genital mutilation surgery in 2007. The 14th of June was chosen as the national day for the elimination of FGM in Egypt in 2008 to commemorate her death. Since then, NGOs, women’s organizations, and activists have taken to the streets in June to end this practice. 

The government’s efforts to combat FGM in Egypt and anti-FGM campaigners

The government’s efforts to combat FGM in Egypt began in 1959; a ministerial decree forbade the practice and made it punishable by fine and imprisonment. A series of later ministerial decrees allowed certain forms but prohibited others. Doctors were also prohibited from performing the procedure in government health facilities. Non-medical practitioners were forbidden from practicing any form.  

Mary Asaad was a leading Egyptian figure in anthropological studies and social sciences, and an iconic defender of women’s rights. She was a human rights activist and among the first to write and report on FGM) in Egypt and North Africa in the 1950s and established a center specialized in providing information and documenting research on FGM.

Aziza Hussein was among the first to advocate against FGM and to promote national and international family planning culture.

Moushira Khattab, the former Minister of Family and Population of Egypt as well as Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, also played an important role in elimination of FGM. She was the principle architect of laws criminalizing the practice of female genital mutilation.

In 2007, the Egyptian Health Ministry issued a decree officially banning FGM. According to the statistics issued by the Egypt’s National Committee on the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation, since 2003, the practice of FGM among women aged 15-17 declined to 61 percent in 2014, compared to74 percent in 2002. 

International efforts against FGM

Efforts to stop this unintended consequence were initiated by WHO in 1979 at the first international conference on FGM, held in Khartoum, Sudan, where WHO established that it is unacceptable to suggest that performing less invasive forms of FGM within medical facilities will reduce health complications. On 18 December 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. And this convention is a milestone in eliminating FGM. The World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993 and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing marked a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality and elimination of FGM.

Religious views on female genital mutilation

There is a widespread view among practitioners of female genital mutilation (FGM) that it is a religious requirement, although prevalence rates often vary according to geography and ethnic group. The practice isn't required by most forms of Islam, and fatwas have been issued forbidding FGM, favouring it, or leaving the decision to parents but advising against it.

Efforts of NGOs to combat FGM

NGOs in Egypt have carried out many awareness-raising campaigns and activities to combat FGM. They founded the Egyptian NGOs Coalition Against Female Genital Mutilation to fight FGM.   

NGOs play an active role in combating FGM in Egypt by holding awareness-raising activities and events, launching campaigns, medical convoys.