Good news! “Egypt’s rate of female mutilation drops to 66%”, headlines The National, an Emirate newspaper. The statement is based on a “Survey of young people”, conducted by the Population Council. However, the report only stated that the rate among the girls 10 to 14 years old was 66%. That might be an indicator for a slightly dropping rate. However, nobody knows how empirically sound this number is.
Is it useful to interview 10 year-old girls on a highly sensitive issue like this? The youngest women interviewed for our report on FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan were 15. Consider also that in 2008, a law banning FGM was issued in Egypt. Under these circumstances, would a 10 year-old girl admit that she was mutilated last year or the year before? Not sure.
In the recent years, FGM was frequently debated in Egyptian radio, TV and newspapers. It is a matter of public interest now, even among village dwellers and illiterates. So, the rate might well have dropped. But nobody knows to what extent. Thus, the headline is strongly misleading.
The article contains other misconceptions. For example, it claims without any empirical evidence that “FGM is a chiefly cultural – as opposed to religious – practice”. Given the fact that people on the ground call FGM a religious duty, this empty phrase seems to serve other interests.
Maybe the most obnoxious sentence is the following:
“The procedure is supposed to reduce a woman’s sexual sensitivity and appetite, but it can lead to medical complications, particularly when performed in unsanitary conditions.”
BUT?! So FGM has a positive effect BUT it can have negative side effects?
Moreover, these negative side effects are reduced here to mere “medical complications” and it is suggested that under more sterile conditions these side effects could largely be eliminated. Yet, medical complications are not accidents but common, and grave psychological problems are very common as well.