Islamic scholars condemn FGM as the infliction of harm on another person
A new bid to ensure that the practice of female genital mutilation is criminalized in Egypt, Africa and Asia may have collided head first with a brick wall.
In an unprecedented move to openly discuss measures to halt the practice of female genital mutilation in Egypt, Africa, and Asia, leading Muslim scholars from around the world gathered at Al-Azhar University Conference Center for a two-day forum.
Sponsored by Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa and held at the invitation of Rüdiger Nehberg’s human rights organization TARGET, the forum was aptly titled the “International Conference for Preventing the Violation of Women’s Bodies.
In his opening remarks, Gomaa called FGM a grim reality and urged a ban on “aggression in any form and respect for people s dignity and honor.
Since it states in the Quran that no Muslim may cause unprovoked physical or mental harm to another person, the grand mufti declared the custom as a sin for all believers – the aim of the conference.
But women’s rights activists were left out in the cold as religious scholars from Al-Azhar refused to issue fatwas condemning or criminalizing the practice.
Ambassador Mosheera Khattab, head of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) said: “The FGM phenomenon is most spread in the countryside and in Upper Egypt.
“NCCM works cooperatively with other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and men of Islamic and Christian religions on raising people s awareness in these areas of the dangers of FGM as well as a number of developmental activities and training programs designed for medical doctors.
Demographic statistics issued by the Ministry of Health and Population indicate that in 2005 medical professionals and nurses carried out 75 percent of FGM cases.
This means that FGM has moved from being a traditional practice to a medicalized practice, Khattab told The Daily Star Egypt.
NCCM is seeking a ministerial decree that criminalizes the practice but its efforts have only resulted in listing the number of villages that are considered free of FGM.
Latest statistics by the Ministry of Health and Population indicate the percentage of FGM cases in Egypt have been reduced to 50.3 percent of the population, Khattab said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as a practice comprising all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, whether for cultural, religious or other reasons.
Depending on regional tradition, infants, girls of every age or (less often) adult women become victims of FGM.
Every day 8,000 girls suffer genital mutilation, while 150 million women worldwide live with this trauma.
The impact of FGM depends on the degree of mutilation, the methods used and sanitation. They comprise not only physical, but also the most severe, lifelong psychological trauma.
Some consequences of FGM include severe pain during the actual procedure, shock as well as possible death due to blood loss. Later consequences include pain and serious difficulties with urination, sexual intercourse, menstruation, childbirth and many more.
Meanwhile, Islamic scholar Yusuf Al-Qaradawi criticized the title of the conference, saying it adopted “a preconceived opinion before looking into the issue and analyzing it.
I wish it could be an objective title, he said.
Al-Qaradawi also claimed a “foreign entity was funding the forum.