Female Circumcision
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Egyptian human rights groups and female activists are alarmed at renewed parliamentary calls to revive the practice of female circumcision. They appeal to the authorities to stop advocating what was officially banned in 2007.

Female circumcision, performed on as many as 3 million girls each year, complicates childbirth later in life and causes higher mortality among their babies, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated.

Women who had undergone the practice, also known as female genital mutilation, were up to 70 percent more vulnerable to potentially fatal hemorrhage after delivery than those who had not.

A study involving some 28,000 women at obstetric centers in six African countries where the practice is common, said babies born to circumcised women were as much as 55 percent more likely to die during or immediately after childbirth.

The removal of the clitoris and labia--is promoted and continues to be advocated in some Muslim and African countries to control women's sexuality.

Ignorant traditionalists in Egypt are under sharp criticism for their continued ascribed religious beliefs and cultural traditions involving horrific forms of female genital mutilation (FGM, which they defend as a form of "female circumcision"). Many well-meaning people are also confused about the actual nature of the scientific evidence and the religious prescriptions regarding all sorts of practices involving any form of cutting in the genital areas.

­Recently a Salafi MP, a member of the second-largest party in the Egypt's parliament, Al Nour, which holds 28 percent of seats, has urged to renew the practice saying notable Egyptian scholars justified it as part of the "prophetic" Sunnah [a holy work of Islam]. The politician has previously proposed a bill that would allow the practice, also known as female genital mutilation.

Egyptian media say MP al-Shaker remarked that former first lady Suzanne Mubarak was the driving force behind banning it and, as everyone is well aware, the Mubaraks are long since personae non grata in Egypt.

The call was immediately opposed by the Cairo Coalition Against Female Genital Mutilation, which said there is no consensus among senior scholars or Islamists as to whether it is a cultural habit rather than a religious practice.

The issue sparked heated debates as earlier in May the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) -- the largest party in the parliament with 48 percent of seats -- was accused of launching a charity medical campaign for circumcision of girls in the southern Egyptian governorate of Minya.

According to news sites and social networking pages, including Facebook and Twitter, a mobile convoy is wandering the region performing the procedure and distributing pro-FGM propaganda.

A group of Egyptian medical and human rights organizations condemned the practice and submitted a communication to the attorney general, the head of the National Council for Women and the governor of Minya, demanding the FJP's activities be stopped.

The FJP, however, has denied the reports. And Hussein Ibrahim, head of the party's parliamentary bloc, told the People's Assembly that the party did not sponsor any such campaigns.

Meanwhile, Mervat Tallawy, the head of the National Council for Women, said it will adopt an awareness campaign in various governorates in Egypt to address the grave consequences of female genital mutilation. It will appeal to citizens, especially women, "not to respond to calls for this illegal act, which violates the dignity and rights of women," calling for lawmakers to "comply with the law and address such propaganda for free circumcision."

Egypt officially banned female genital mutilation in 2007.

Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.