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HEALTH REPORT - Egypt Moves to Halt Female Genital Cutting

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Egypt has fully banned the tradition that some call female circumcision and others call female genital mutilation. The government acted after a girl in southern Egypt died. Her mother took her to a doctor to perform the operation.

Hundreds of girls at a protest in Assiut, Egypt, carry posters showing Badour Shaker
Hundreds of girls at a protest in Assiut, Egypt, carry posters showing Badour Shaker

Twelve-year-old Badour Shaker reportedly was given too much anesthesia to kill the pain. Her death in June created public anger against the traditional practice.

Part or all of the clitoris and other tissue around the vagina are cut away. The practice is often seen for cultural reasons as a way to repress sexual desire and protect a girl's honor. Some parents also think it is connected with cleanliness.

But the cutting is often done by someone without medical training, clean tools or even anesthesia. Infections are common. Victims can also go into shock from pain and bleeding.

Experts say long-term problems can include painful growths and thick scar tissue. These can interfere with reproductive ability and childbirth.

The World Health Organization says the practice is dangerous physically as well as emotionally. Still, the United Nations says that in Africa, more than three million girls each year have it done to them.

In Egypt and Sudan the cutting is performed on both Muslim and Christian girls. It is also common in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The death of Badour Shaker led the Egyptian Health Ministry to strengthen a nineteen ninety-six ban on female genital cutting. The operation was still permitted in some cases. This was true since Egypt first banned the practice in nineteen fifty-nine.

After the recent death, Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa condemned what he called a harmful tradition forbidden by Islam. The grand mufti is the country's top official for giving Islamic legal opinions.

Other countries are also taking action. Norway said it would bar families from leaving the country if the suspected purpose was to have the cutting done.

And in London, police have just offered money for information leading to anyone carrying out female genital mutilation in the British capital. Police officials say it is a human rights violation and extreme child abuse that can involve girls as young as four. The police launched the campaign during summer because the extended holiday period is believed to be when families most often have it done.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. For more health news, go to www.unsv.com. I'm Faith Lapidus.

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