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Archive for Monday, August 4, 2008

Grass-roots effort fights female circumcision

Harisa Mesed talks outside a home in the Upper Egyptian village of Sultan Zawyit as children from the village play on Dec. 5, 2007. Harisa  is one of several women in the village who are trying to convince their neighbors not to circumcise their daughters.

Harisa Mesed talks outside a home in the Upper Egyptian village of Sultan Zawyit as children from the village play on Dec. 5, 2007. Harisa is one of several women in the village who are trying to convince their neighbors not to circumcise their daughters.

August 4, 2008

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— In this small Nile River farming village, Maha Mohammed has started to doubt whether she should circumcise her two daughters.

A year ago, she had few qualms about female genital mutilation, the practice of cutting a girl's clitoris and sometimes other genitalia. She herself was cut two decades ago, and she fears her daughters will not find husbands otherwise.

But Mohammed also has heard that circumcision can be medically risky and emotionally painful. And a strong-willed neighbor, another woman, has been dropping by her house regularly to persuade her to say no.

"I hear that girls suffer not just physically but psychologically," the 31-year-old Mohammed said. "But I am afraid. I don't want my daughters to have uncontrollable demands for sex."

Such doubts are significant. With vigorous grass-roots campaigns and the passage of tough laws against circumcision, Egypt seems to be making a dent in this deeply ingrained practice, thousands of years old. The number of young girls circumcised is now steadily declining in a country where an estimated 96 percent of married Egyptian women have had their genitals cut.

The most recent comprehensive study predicts about 63 percent of Egyptian girls 9 years old and under will be circumcised over the next decade. The numbers are lower in urban areas like Cairo - about 40 percent - but higher for rural areas in the south - about 78 percent, the government's 2005 demographic and health survey predicts.

Grass-roots campaign

The lower circumcision rate in urban areas is attributed to higher income and education levels and greater access to information. But in the villages along the Nile, where the rate is highest, a grass-roots effort is under way to bring information straight to people's homes.

The door-to-door campaign to end female genital mutilation is slow and time-consuming. It publicly plays down any outside help or connections to Western aid groups.

Instead, local activists focus on convincing Egyptians, one woman, one family and one village at a time. Often they reach out to women who have turned against the practice on their own, appealing to them to approach neighbors whose daughters are between ages 8 and 11.

Fatma Mohammed Ali is one.

The 35-year-old woman suffered intense complications after being circumcised at age 13, including severe pain during childbirth. Now she regularly visits her neighbor - Mohammed - gently discouraging her from the practice and using her own family as an example.

Neither of Ali's daughters was circumcised. Both are physically "normal" and one attends university - a high achievement for a woman from this village, Ali says.

"I don't care what everyone thinks. I was really harmed, and I didn't want this for my daughters," said Ali, a proud woman who often sits with her arms crossed against her chest. "When I talk about my experience, many become convinced. They also see how my daughters are good and religious."

'Wave of change'

It's difficult to encourage village women to go public with their views on the subject, said Nevine Saad Fouad, the project manager for child protection with a group called the Better Life Association for Comprehensive Development in the nearby city of Minya.

But when village women do go public, the results are astonishing.

Of some 3,000 families targeted over the past few years in several nearby villages, more than half say they have abandoned the practice, nearly 800 are undecided and fewer than 500 say they will continue to circumcise their daughters.

The key is convincing villages that stopping circumcision is an Egyptian idea - not one imported by international aid groups or Western governments, Fouad said. The group also promotes homegrown activities such as community plays, discussions with local doctors and religious debates.

Along with local groups taking action, Egypt's government has also been discouraging the practice in recent years. The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood has developed programs to help villages declare themselves against the cutting and sponsored an influential campaign of TV commercials and billboards featuring a young Egyptian girl.

Last year, the Ministry of Health prohibited licensed medical professionals from performing the procedure, and Egypt's parliament voted in June to ban it as part of a law protecting children. But activists stress that laws alone aren't enough.

"There is a wave of change right now," said Mona Amin of the childhood and motherhood council. "But we must keep this momentum, this intensity."

Comments

Confrontation 5 years, 8 months ago

I'm guessing that McCain would love to see this practice brought into America. Afterall, he wasn't the one who had uncontrollable sexual urges. What? He cheated on his wife, even though she waited for his sorry a$$ to get back from Nam, with a much younger and richer skank? Shocking!

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screedposter 5 years, 8 months ago

"Not only did you leave off the question mark but you are suggesting that the term "Negor" is "racist'!"I suggest no removal.

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WhiteDog 5 years, 8 months ago

It's wonderful so many are re-thinking the brutal custom that is circumcision. I hope for the day when Americans will finally follow suit and stop mutilating the genitals of their infants as well.

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Marion Lynn 5 years, 8 months ago

cont'd:"Did you know that in South Africa, ethnic Chinese are now considered to be "black"?:"A high court in South Africa ruled on Wednesday that Chinese-South Africans will be reclassified as "black," a term that includes black Africans, Indians and others who were subject to discrimination under apartheid. As a result of this ruling, ethnically Chinese citizens will be able to benefit from government affirmative action policies aimed at undoing the effects of apartheid.In 2006, the Chinese Association of South Africa sued the government, claiming that its members were being discriminated against because they were being treated as whites and thus failed to qualify for business contracts and job promotions reserved for victims of apartheid. The association successfully argued that, since Chinese-South Africans had been treated unequally under apartheid, they should be reclassified in order to redress wrongs of the past. Jacob Zuma, President of the African National Congress, with Hu Jintao in Beijing last week (Reuters)This is not the first time the classification of Chinese in South Africa has changed. In fact, the racial status of Chinese-South Africans has often shifted with the nation's political climate and its international relations."http://blogs.wsj.com/chinajournal/2008/06/19/in-south-africa-chinese-is-the-new-black/Use of the term "black" and its history:"The term black is also used for people with dark skin color, usually of sub-Saharan African origin (in fact the color of the skin is not black, but any of a variety of shades of brown). In the USA, African Americans are commonly called, and call themselves, "black." However, some have argued that due to the growing scientific consensus against race as a biological category, that "blackness" is merely a social construct. After all, many African-Americans who call themselves "black" are also of European, Native American and/or Asian descent. In addition, many so-called "white" Americans are of African descent, due to the practice known as "passing", whereby some African-Americans who were also of European ancestry, and who possessed extremely light complexions and features, were able to hide their African heritage from public (and sometimes, private) knowledge." http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Black/

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Marion Lynn 5 years, 8 months ago

screedposter (Anonymous) says: "Obama the Magic Negro?"Who knew the L.A. Times was so racist."Marion writes:Not only did you leave off the question mark but you are suggesting that the term "Negor" is "racist'!You'd better quickly tell that to The United Negro College Fund and re-write a bunch of Dr. King's works because King used the term frequently.beatrice (Anonymous) says: At least Obama was born in this country.What jerks, turning a story like this into another fear mongering opportunity against Obama because he is a Black man. I can't wait until Obama is President. Just knowing that it is going to drive all those who hate people who aren't just like them crazy. Marion, your President will be a black man. Deal with it. I'm sure it will help recruitment at your klan meetings.Marion writes:For purposes of citizenship, so was John McCain.I notice that you refer to Barack H.Obama as a "black" man and wonder why you use whawt is indeed and proveably a very racist term, having it's foundation in the old "one drop" rule, which says that "one drop of "negro" blood" makes an individual what you refer to as "black".From your own much loved PBS, an interseing study of the term, its use, misuse and legal recognition (Along with a snippet or two!):"To be considered black in the United States not even half of one's ancestry must be African black. But will one-fourth do, or one-eighth, or less? The nation's answer to the question 'Who is black?" has long been that a black is any person with any known African black ancestry. This definition reflects the long experience with slavery and later with Jim Crow segregation. In the South it became known as the "one-drop rule,'' meaning that a single drop of "black blood" makes a person a black. It is also known as the "one black ancestor rule," some courts have called it the "traceable amount rule," and anthropologists call it the "hypo-descent rule," meaning that racially mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group. This definition emerged from the American South to become the nation's definition, generally accepted by whites and blacks."http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jefferson/mixed/onedrop.htmlcont'd:

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Bossa_Nova 5 years, 8 months ago

i got news for everybody, this practice of female mutilation was well established in xtian and jewish traditions long before mohammed. its still practiced widely in ethiopia and somalia primarily by the xtian tribes. seriously everybody, this aint just a muslim thang. its an old world thang.

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screedposter 5 years, 8 months ago

"Obama the Magic Negro?"Who knew the L.A. Times was so racist.

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le 5 years, 8 months ago

I would like to apply for the job of clitoris removal...i will nibble them off for free!

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beatrice 5 years, 8 months ago

At least Obama was born in this country.What jerks, turning a story like this into another fear mongering opportunity against Obama because he is a Black man. I can't wait until Obama is President. Just knowing that it is going to drive all those who hate people who aren't just like them crazy. Marion, your President will be a black man. Deal with it. I'm sure it will help recruitment at your klan meetings.

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acoupstick 5 years, 8 months ago

"Another tradition brought to you by the Religion of Peace; Muslim!"The practice of female circumcision predates Islam (the actual name of the religion) and Christianity. It is essentially a cultural artifact that is currently practiced by Muslim, Christian and Jewish populations who have converted throughout history. As for Obama, shame on you, you know better. Please think before you type.

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Marion Lynn 5 years, 8 months ago

peachesncream (Anonymous) says: marion is this something for us to look forward to when the new president comes into office?"Marion writes:One might well wonder, considering Barack H.Obama's childhood attendance of a Muslim school!

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Dixie Jones 5 years, 8 months ago

marion is this something for us to look forward to when the new president comes into office?

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Marion Lynn 5 years, 8 months ago

Another tradition brought to you by the Religion of Peace; Muslim!

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JJE007 5 years, 8 months ago

"circumcision"? Shhhhiiiiiite. It's mutilation, plain and simple, mutilation as another vicious tool in a patriarchal scheme to enslave women.Anyone who thinks of this as circumcision should be "circumcised" Ã la John Bobbit.

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bondmen 5 years, 8 months ago

This barbaric and cruel practice is not in Christian countries but in Muslim ones. The control of women is so great it reaches down to their genitals. This particular mother is worried, "But I am afraid. I don't want my daughters to have uncontrollable demands for sex."Uncontrolled sex is a potential problem for most everyone but removing the genitals is not a necessary or a humane solution. How about teaching young people sex is best and most intense between a man and woman who are married.Thankfully there is a movement afoot to educate Muslim mothers and save their precious young girls from genital destruction and potentially serious infection.

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