Although female genital mutilation (FGM) is not only of no health benefit but also harmful on the physical and physiological levels, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, according to the World Health Organization.
FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, as defined by the The United Nations Children’s Fund.
The cultural practice in the Arab and Muslim world is very sensitive to the political environment, says Nature Middle East. Religious leaders influence the frequency of the practice and have been applying a tipping-point approach in addressing the practice. Elsewhere it is usually directed by the political climate.
Egypt has one of the highest rates of FGM, despite the practice being outlawed in the country since 2008. Social norms ensure that the practice is still very prevalent; 91 percent of Egyptian women have undergone FGM, according to UNICEF. It specifies a list of 29 nations where FGM is most frequently performed, calculating that 125 million females are left mutilated or cut. Egypt ranks fourth on the list with 27.2 million females scarred for life, either physically or psychologically, or both. In August 2016, the Egyptian cabinet approved an amendment to the FGM law, stiffening the punishment to rigorous imprisonment from five to seven years, and up to 15 years of imprisonment if FGM led to permanent disability or death.