Opening Remarks: International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation: Stopping FGM Medicalization-A Scientific and Legal Vision

Opening Remarks by Ms. Anita Nirody; UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

Your Excellency, Professor, Maissa Shawky, Deputy Minister of Health and Population

Our national and international partners and members of the UN family

Ladies and gentlemen

I am very pleased to be here to celebrate the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM and very importantly the focus on the medicalization of FGM.

I would like to begin my remarks with a quote by UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon in his statement to mark this day. I Quote: “Never before has it been more urgent – or more possible – to end the practice of female genital mutilation, preventing immeasurable human suffering and boosting the power of women and girls to have a positive impact on our world… Today I raise my voice and call on others to join me in empowering communities which themselves are eager for change. I count on governments to honour their pledges with support from civil society, health providers, the media and young people.”

In Egypt we are seeing positive results in our joint efforts to combat FGM – DHS 2014 shows a decline in prevalence in the age group (15-17 years old) by more than 13% compared to the 2008 EDHS.

EDHS 2014 shows significant change in mothers’ attitudes, since from a total of 92% circumcised mothers only 35% of them intend to circumcise their daughters. This shows that there is a shift in the mind-sets.

On 7th June 2014, the 2016-2020 National FGM Abandonment Strategy was launched highlight the Egyptian government’s commitment to fighting FGM as a matter of national priority, while recognizing the negative effects of this practice on society and people.

A media awareness campaign “Enough FGM” was launched with testimonials from people who were denouncing the FGM practice –shows a change in mind-sets over the past 10 years. It will be important to see how such advocacy efforts can be sustained in the future.

We have seen the incorporation of the FGM Abandonment, Anti-Violence and family rights messages in Primary and Secondary School Curriculum in collaboration with Ministry of Education.

All of the above reflects the impact of the FGM Abandonment and Family Empowerment Programme, which is implemented by the Ministry of Health – National Population Council, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund in Egypt (UNFPA) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

In 2015, Egypt witnessed a new milestone in the fight against FGM when the first doctor to be convicted of FGM was sentenced. But clearly, more needs to done to ensure that more FGM cases are being reported and prosecuted. The UN family with NPC and the Ministry of Health has been working with the Prosecution office towards expanding awareness on the FGM penal code to help the enforcement of the law.

Goal 5 of the UN’s SDGs calls for achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls, with a key target that aims to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and FGM. This year’s day is being held under the theme “Mobilizing to Achieve the Global Goals through the Elimination of FGM by 2030”; together, we look forward to contribute to the achievement of the new Global Goals through the elimination of FGM by 2030.

Although the practice of FGM cannot be justified by medical reasons, in many countries it is executed more and more often by medical professionals, which constitutes ones of the greatest threats to the abandonment of the practice. In Egypt, 82% percent of circumcisions are regrettably performed by trained medical personnel. Medicalization of FGM will not reduce the long term complications of FGM, has no benefit what so ever.

It is estimable that Minister of Justice, has ordered the formation of a committee that includes forensic medicine personnel to offer a medical opinion on the prospect - toughening the punishment of female genital mutilation as a felony (permanent disability) instead of a misdemeanour enforced with a reduced sentence, and also to prepare a study on the punitive treatment of such crime.

The UN family in Egypt calls upon doctors and health professionals in Egypt to actively support the rights of girls and women and protect them from FGM. It is worth noting that UNDP is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, and it is renewing its commitment to support the rights of girls and women as well as promoting gender equality.

UN Agencies in Egypt look forward to proceed with its commitment towards the Egyptian government in its ongoing efforts to combat FGM.

In conclusion I would like to thank the National Population Council, Ministry of Health and all other national partners, and members of the UN family, and recognize the support provided by international partners: the EU, Swedish SIDA, GIZ, the Embassy of the Netherlands, and the Department for International Development/UK, the Government of Norway, Spain and the generous contributions of other countries to the Joint Programme against FGM.

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