Another Culture War?

Female Genital Cutting (FGC), a practice that started in Egypt and spread throughout Africa, has been illegal in Egypt for years now. Still, a recent BBC News article shows figures that suggest that more than 90% of the women have been subject to female genital mutilation (FGM). The figure is from a survey Unicef carried out in 2008, the year that the practice was banned. Also, recent discussions at the State Department have brought attention to the fact that FGM is not a religious practice, but rather a cultural practice. The influence of tradition causes many women to believe they have to continue FGM since it has been practiced for thousands of years as a “right of passage” despite the health problems that arise, especially in childbirth.

Despite Secretary of State Clinton’s assertions, FGC is such a culturally sensitive topic and it must be approached within the community the practice occurs. Various organizations recognize this, and are working village by village speaking with mothers to educate them about the critical health issues that FGC can cause.

The Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), the Fund for Grassroots Activism to End FGM  established by Equality Now, and several other grass roots organizations provide networking opportunities for activists to share best practices in the movement to end FGM. Their goal is to inform women about the health problems associated with this procedure in order to empower women to choose not to continue this practice. To date, 36 groups in 19 countries have received grants under the FGM Fund.

What do you think? If FGM is approached as a public health concern, will entire communities listen and fight for women’s health in their villages? Tell us your thoughts!

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