FGM level drops in Egypt
The Egyptian government has revealed the level of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the country has seen a significant fall in recent years. According to the country's health ministry, the teenage FGM rate fell from 74 per cent in 2008 to 61 per cent in 2014. The statistics were revealed on Day of Zero Tolerance, an awareness day run on February 6th every year by the United Nations. Although a criminal offence in Egypt since 2008, the practice of FGM remains widespread. The 2015 Egypt Health issues survey found around 90 per cent of women aged 15-49 have been cut. Most of these will have suffered FGM while the practice was still lawful, but the deeply embedded cultural assumptions about the marriageability of girls means that the issue is still a topic of hot debate in Egyptian society. Indeed, as recently as 2016 MP Elhamy Agina was quoted by Parlmany as saying women should undergo FGM to curb their sexual desires in order to make matters easier for the country's "sexually weak" men. Nonetheless, since most instances of FGM are carried out at a young age long before a girl can marry, the 2015 survey and its inclusion of women in middle age among the sample would indicate that FGM levels declined in frequency even by 2008. Since 2008, the government contends, its awareness campaigns and criminalisation have been the key reasons for further drops in cases of women being cut. The UN is continuing to target Egypt as one of the countries where the most needs to be done to stamp out FGM. Among the concerns is not just the continuing support among much of the population and even some politicians for the practice, but the law itself may be regarded by some as not being sufficiently strict. In 2016, a girl died after a botched operation in Suez Governorate, with the sentence handed down to her mother only being a one-year suspended jail term. Other African countries where the practice has been widespread include Liberia, where a one-year ban on FGM has just been imposed. President George Weah has been urged to make the new law permanent.