Many campaigns are being conducted to prevent the crime of female genital mutilation, a tradition rooted in Egyptian society for thousands of years, but the required campaigns neglect to talk about an important aspect, which is the possibility of repairing and treating the effects of the mutilation that has already occurred.
There are campaigns against FGM in Egypt, and if the state seeks to protect future generations, the 28 million women who are already circumcised have only one private clinic to help them.
Nourhan, 30, decided to challenge tradition. This young woman residing in Alexandria, speaking under a pseudonym, resorted to the surgeon, Reham Awwad, “to return to the decision-maker regarding her body.”
Nourhan says that after eight months of corrective surgery to return to the way she was at birth, “completely new feelings” replaced the chronic pain she was suffering from, and she “improved on the physical and psychological levels.”
This type of surgery began to be performed for the first time in Egypt in the year 2020, when she established the “Circumcision Restoration Center.” Dr. and rejection.
The center provides psychological treatment by male and female specialists, and also provides two plasma treatments in order to revive the damaged tissues, in addition to a clitoral restoration.
Awwad asserts that “surgery is the last resort,” explaining that plasma injections, along with psychological follow-up, “allow to reduce surgeries by 50%.”
However, Intisar, who also speaks under a pseudonym, intends to undergo this surgery, and this woman, who has begun her fifties, says: “There is something broken in me and I want to fix it.”
She recounts: “My grandmother took me when I was ten years old to see a doctor who performed circumcision on me,” and added that her grandmother always said, “This is for your own good, this is better for you.”
An ancient tradition practiced today by doctors
Activist Lubna Darwish explains that Intisar’s father, who is a doctor, and her mother, who is a school principal, agreed to perform the circumcision surgery on her, but they left the task to be performed by the grandmother during the summer vacation, the season for circumcision of girls in Egypt.
Darwish, the gender program officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, calls for “preventive campaigns in schools before the summer holidays.”
It indicates that the numbers are alarming. This is because 86% of married Egyptian women, whose ages ranged between 15 and 49, had undergone circumcision surgery, according to official figures issued in 2021. Egyptian women constitute one-tenth of the number of women who have been circumcised in the world.
Circumcision, which in Egypt is essentially the removal of the clitoris, causes pain, bleeding, infections in the urethra, painful sexual relations and complications during childbirth, yet many clinics perform this surgery. After years of campaigning against the “midwives” who used to perform circumcisions, doctors now perform three quarters of circumcision surgeries in Egypt.
This tradition, rooted in society for thousands of years, is difficult to resist and dislodge the convictions behind it, as the Egyptians believe that it is the main way to preserve what they describe as “the chastity of women.”
Although circumcision has been prohibited by law since 2008, and although Islamic and Christian clerics assert that it is against religion, it remains widespread.
Intisar, who is today a journalist, says: “FGM crosses social classes,” and although some promote it as a mere “cosmetic” surgery, it actually aims to “deprive women of feeling their own bodies and of pleasure,” according to Intisar. She continues, “They told us that circumcision is in accordance with religion and that it is better and cleaner.”
A mirror to discover ourselves
From time to time, penalties are toughened for doctors who perform circumcision surgeries and even for families, but for Al-Bunna Darwish, “criminalization” is useless because no one will inform his family if the penalties are too severe.
She added, “There is a need for sex education lessons in schools and awareness of the hot number,” which the state has designated since 2017 to report cases of circumcision before it is performed.
For Dr. Reham Awwad, the problem is that the doctors themselves “do not hear about reconstructive surgeries, neither during their studies nor later during their training.” As for women, they do not know well the anatomical composition of their bodies, and Awwad explains that she gives a mirror to any patient who visits her for the first time, so that she can discover her genitals.
Intisar says that she did not know that they “removed part of the clitoris until after the first visit.” “I thought they had cut off a small part of the skin, and I was very angry when I found out the truth,” she added.
Norhan was furious as well, first at the removal and then at the lack of help for the reconstructive surgery. She had to wait more than a year to obtain a donation to cover the cost of the surgery, which is approximately $1,300, more than ten times the average salary in Egypt.
“Medicines are also very expensive, and officials should address this issue and allow reconstructive surgeries to be performed in public hospitals,” she added.
However, Nourhan has already scored a victory: Together with her mother, she managed to prevent the circumcision of her two nieces.