It is horrifying and heart-breaking to think that female genital cutting (FGC) is still practiced in this century in 28 countries around the world. But this summer, the numbers drastically declined when Egypt—which carried out this practice on 97% of the women in their country—finally outlawed all female circumcision.
“What great news!” Dr. Northrup, a staunch opponent of both female and male circumcision, proclaimed ecstatically. “This is a huge step forward in human rights.”
According to the new law in Egypt, any doctor or member of the medical profession in public or private establishments will be banned from carrying out a clitoridectomy, or removal of the clitoris. “Any circumcision will be viewed as a violation of the law and all contraventions will be punished.”
The ban was enacted after a 12-year-old girl died at the hands of a doctor performing a female circumcision. The event sparked a public outcry, which prompted health and religious authorities to take action.
But the road to abolish this heinous practice is a long one.
According to the FGC Education and Networking Project, as you are reading this article, there are between eight and ten million women and girls in the Middle East and in Africa who are at risk of undergoing one form or another of genital cutting. In the United States, it is estimated that about 10,000 girls are at risk of this practice.
Why is female circumcision still prevalent? While some believe that this practice dates back before the time of the Pharaohs or even that it predates both Islam and Christianity, there is no clear evidence of why it emerged to begin with. Still today, various cultures and religions recognize this practice for a wide range of reasons—including maintenance of cleanliness, a rite of passage for womanhood and marriage, an enhancement of fertility, a deterrent to promiscuity, and a preservation of virginity.
With the news of the ban in Egypt and other countries beginning to follow suit, many opponents such as Dr. Northrup believe that the numbers will continue their decline.
“The clitoris is the only organ in the female body whose sole purpose is pleasure. It contains 8,000 nerve endings. My personal feeling is that if our Maker gave us this organ, She intended for us to enjoy it! I’m certainly glad that now many Egyptian women will have that choice, too.”
Last month, more encouraging news was reported when two United Nations agencies launched a $14-million program to reduce female genital mutilation by 40 percent in 16 countries by the year 2015. Their goal is to end this harmful traditional practice within a generation.