Thursday, March 29, 2012

Female MB Representative Supports FGM

In a move that is raising a great many questions, Azza El Garf, a female representative in the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, has expressed her support for the practice known as Female Genital Mutilation.

In Egypt's post-revolution parliament, female representatives make up a meagre 1 percent of legislatures currently serving. Of this 1%, El Garf is a prominent figure. Her recent comments on FGM shed distinctive light on what the potential future for women in Egypt may be shaping up to be.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party made headway with voters during initial voting rounds by promoting their family friendly ideals and their staunch support of Islamic Shariah as the primary source of legislation. For months now, liberal thinkers and women have speculated on how the FJPs domination in the parliament could potentially reverse the small milestones achieve by women in Egypt. With this parliament dominated by men, the little hope remained in the 1 percent female representation to stand firm in the progress made in the past few years. El Garf's comments serve as an indication that even these women may not be the defenders of women's rights they were hoped to be.

Commenting on the current perception of women in parliament, El Garf says: "People here think women can be a doctor, go to university, be a teacher or an engineer ... But people still think 'women are no good at politics.' We want to change this view."

In what initially appears to be a clear statement that women are here to express their ability to play a crucial role in politics, El Garf goes on to comment on the individual rights that women in Egypt have won over the past few years.

One of these was a ban imposed in 2008 on female castration, or genital mutilation.

"It is a personal decision and each woman can decide based on her needs. If she needs it, she can go to a doctor," El Garf says. She further highlights that according to the Muslim Brotherhood, the procedure is considered a beautification plastic surgery.

The World Heath Organization defines FGM as:  "procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons." It goes on to say that the procedure has no health benefits for girls or women.

The practice of FGM is in itself contentious. Many traditional societies believe that through FGM, the purity of a young girl can be preserved by removing the unclean portion of her genitals. Others believe that removing the clitoris prevents a woman from have sexual urges, thereby ensuring she will not be tempted to engage in illicit sexual behaviour. The list of negative repercussions it can cause to a woman are endless, and include but are not limited to: cysts, infections, infertility, and in some cases death. FGM is primarily carried out on younger girls, mostly before the age of 15.

Despite this, El Garf's opinion is that a girl should have the right to choose to mutilate her genitals or not. But the question here is, how many young girls aged 1-15 will fully understand the repercussions? To provide a girl with the right to make a choice will require educating her on the potential impact later on in life, does this then mean El Garf is suggesting launching earlier sex education for women to be able to make an informed decision on FGM?

More worrying are El Garf's statements on divorce. Many women in Egypt, particularly Muslim women, are forced to suffer long and troublesome marriages, oftentimes in an abusive situation. In what at the time was considered a land-mark move, in 2005 the Egyptian courts passed a law permitting a Muslim woman the right to file for a 'no-fault' divorce without first needing the permission of her husband or a male relative. El Garf believes these have allowed the legislation surrounding divorce to become too "lax," and supports the imposition of more stringent conditions for divorce. She does not clarify if this means that the husband's permission will first be required for any woman to file for a divorce, nor anything about women facing abusive husbands.

As the FJP continues to solidify its hold in the Egyptian political arena, comments such as those made by El Garf are becoming more frequent. Feminists in Egypt have much to worry about upon seeing a woman verbally trample on the minor rights they have long and hard fought for. Many of those who fought hard to bring 30 years of dictatorship to an end are now asking themselves, "is this the democracy we fought and died for?"

To read more on El Garf, click here.

1 comment:

  1. This is so heart breaking!!! I can't wrap my brain around MGM let alone FGM. All the more, I can not understand how a woman can support FGM!