Human Rights Groups Condemn Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Medical Convoys Over Female Circumcision


Egyptian media is reporting on complaints concerning medical convoys organized by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s political party which are alleged to be involved with female circumcision. According to a Bikya Masr report:

14 May 2012 CAIRO: A number of Egyptian human rights groups have submitted a communication to the Attorney General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud against the Muslim Brotherhood`s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to investigate the complaints of people in the village of Abu Aziz in the Minya governorate, south of Cairo, over the existence of a large medical convoy organized by the party that wanders streets and does medical examination on people, including female circumcision, or female genital mutilation, in violation of Egyptian law, conventions and treaties signed by Egypt. In Egypt’s legal code, Female Genital Mutilation is criminalized, as well as the inciting by doctors to convince families of the young girls of the need to agree to circumcise their daughters, ‘as a matter of preserving chastity.’ The communication demanded Mervat Tallawy, the head of the National Council for Women (NCW) and Major General Seraj EL Din El Rouby, the Governor of Minya, and Nasr El Sayed , Assistant Minister for primary health care, and preventive medicine, and family planning, to intervene to stop what it called ‘a farce propaganda for free circumcision, which was organized by one of the political parties, in Minya governorate to promote circumcision.’ The communication came after reports were circulated on news websites and social networking websites, including Facebook and Twitter about a convoy organized by the FJP to promote circumcision among girls in Minya.  Tallawy, on Sunday, held a meeting with the governor of Minya to discuss the mechanisms of organizing awareness campaigns and seminars for women in the governorate, on how to address and fight against female genital mutilation, ‘which is being carried out by the FJP in the governorate.’ Tallawy called on the Governor of Minya to combat such operations, and to spread awareness in the governorate, and to ‘coordinate with the Council in any issue related to women.’ The National Council for Women denounced the statements issued by the Secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party for the People’s Assembly on female circumcision, pointing out that such an act and calls ‘may put the person who promotes it under penalty of law because FGM is criminalized, and against human rights in general and women in particular.’The Council said it would not stand silent and will ‘combat these calls, which is an affront to Egyptian women, especially since the law criminalizes this act,’ pointing out that the attempts by some to ignore this law and the abolition of the law that bans FGM. The council added that ‘the call for female circumcision is totally unacceptable.’ The NCW said it will adopt an awareness campaign in various governorates in Egypt to address the grave consequences of female genital mutilation and, appealing to citizens, especially women, ‘not to respond to calls for this illegal act, which violates the dignity and rights of women,’ and calling for lawmakers to ‘comply with the law and address such propaganda for free circumcision.’”

In 2008, a post reported reported on opposition by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to a new law intended to protect the rights of children, including provisions reinforcing a standing ban on female circumcision. The Christian Science Monitor article which was the subject of that post discussed female genital mutilation and raised the issue of Muslim Brotherhood support for the practice:

Supporters of the law accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of playing politics with children’s rights and argue that changing cultural attitudes that endanger young people is the exact intention of the law. “We wanted the law to be stringent or extreme because we want it to challenge some of the prevalent norms and values in our society, particularly female genital mutilation (FGM) and the practice of child marriage,” says Hany Helal, who directs the Egyptian Center for the Rights of the Child and helped the government write the law…. Egypt has one of the highest FGM rates in the world. According to a 2005 study conducted by UNICEF, 96 percent of women between the ages of 15 to 49 who had ever been married are circumcised. A recent study by the country’s Ministry of Health and Population also found that 50.3 percent of girls between the ages of 10 and 18 had been circumcised.Katatny says that the Brotherhood is not in favor of female circumcision, but opposes banning it because it is a tradition that should remain an option for medical reasons and “beautification” purposes….Human rights activists suggest that the child law’s religious opponents are more concerned about embarrassing the government than protecting children. “This is a law the government wanted. It was a big investment for them,” says Clarisa Bencomo, a Cairo-based researcher in the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. “There is a lot in this law that makes Egypt look good internationally, but it is also something that makes it easy for the Muslim Brotherhood to put its finger in the government’s eye.

Despite the denial of support for female circumcision, a another previous post has reported on an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood MP who “objected to the criminalization of female circumcision” during a discussion in the Egyptian Parliament. As that posted noted, although the Muslim Brotherhood generally claims to be upholding the rights of women, these are not the only demonstrations of support for female circumcision within the ranks of the global Brotherhood. In 1998, Dr. Ali Abu Shwaima, an Italian Brotherhood leader and former officer of the Federation of Islamic Organization in Europe (FIOE), was implicated in the operation of a clandestine circumcision clinic where operations were performed in unsanitary conditions. Dr. Shwaima was sentenced to five months in prison in connection with these activities.


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