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International News

Campaign Changing African Views on Female Circumcision

July 8, 2003

A campaign against female circumcision is starting to change attitudes in Egypt and across Africa, according to activists at a June conference in Cairo. Despite a ban in many countries, including Egypt, up to 130 million women have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) and 6,000 girls are subjected to it every day, according to the World Health Organization.

In some African countries -- such as Egypt, Somalia or Ethiopia -- more than 90 percent of women are estimated to have been circumcised. But campaigners say the numbers are starting to decrease as they struggle to stamp out FGM, which experts say leaves women physically and emotionally scarred.

In Egypt, with a population of almost 70 million, research shows circumcision among females ages 10 to 19 is now down to 84 percent, compared to 96 percent for the total female population.

FGM involves cutting the clitoris and other genitalia, sometimes by a doctor, but often in more rural societies by a relative or local "healer." For communities that practice it, the tradition is a rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood. Proponents say it reduces sex drive, thereby limiting promiscuity.

UNICEF started anti-FGM programs in Egypt in 1998 and has trained hundreds of aid workers who try to persuade parents to stop circumcising and break the social pressures that force many to continue the practice. Aid workers say campaigns show success in other countries, helped by growing literacy in Africa, where access to the Internet and other information sources is improving. They say parents listen increasingly to warnings against FGM.

Egypt's campaign to end FGM includes television programs aimed at persuading parents to abandon it. Some 60 villages where FGM is widespread were identified as priority targets in fighting the practice. The campaign has also won support from the government and religious leaders. Muslim and Christian leaders say neither the Koran nor the Bible demands or even mentions female circumcision.

Back to other CDC news for July 8, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Reuters Health
07.01.03; Ulf Laessing

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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