Sexual and reproductive health

Female genital mutilation and other harmful practices

Research studies on the prevalence and classification of female genital mutilation

Prevalence of FGM among young Egyptian girls

The Demographic and Health Survey in Egypt in 2000 showed that 97% of married women included in the survey had experienced female genital cutting (i.e. FGM). Another study by the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population in 2003 reported that over 94% of married women had been exposed to genital cutting and 69% of those women agreed to the procedure being carried out on their daughters. Further, a pilot study by the Health Insurance Organization showed that 41% of female students in primary, preparatory and secondary schools had undergone genital cutting.

The aim of this study [1] reported in the WHO Bulletin in 2008 was to measure the prevalence of genital cutting among schoolgirls in Egypt. A total of 38 816 girls in both government and private schools (at primary, preparatory and secondary levels, and in both urban and rural areas) were interviewed with a questionnaire on genital cutting.

In the study, the overall prevalence of genital cutting was reportedly 50.3% among girls in the age group 10–18 years. In rural schools, the prevalence rate was 61.7% compared to 46.2% in urban schools. In private urban schools the prevalence rate was very low (9.2%), a fact that the researchers attribute to differences in educational status between rural and urban areas.

The educational levels of the mother and father were negatively associated with genital cutting. The genital cutting was usually carried out between the ages of 4 and 12 years, though some girls underwent the procedure as late as 15 years and some (especially in the Luxor governorate) shortly after birth.

The girls in this study were asked for reasons to support the practice of genital cutting. Their answers included that FGM is an important religious tradition (33.4%), the practice helps ensure cleanliness for girls (18.9%), it is a cultural and social tradition (17.9%), and it promotes chastity (15.9%).

At the same time, 53.9% of non-circumcised girls in the study said that genital cutting is not important and that it is an unhealthy and painful procedure, while 17.5% of girls said that it is unnecessary for females. Around 12% of girls in the study believed that there is no religious support for circumcision.

In 2003, the Egyptian Interim Demographic and Health Survey obtained information from women who said that their daughters would not be circumcised. Most of these women (61%) simply said that they did not believe in the practice of genital cutting, a substantial proportion (42%) expressed concern about potential health complications, and only 20% saw genital cutting as against their religion. Another study in Egypt among medical students reported that 72–78% of medical students were against FGM.


1. Tag-Eldin MA, Gadallah MA, Al-Tayeb MN, Abdel-Aty M, Mansour E, Sallem M. Prevalence of female genital cutting among Egyptian girls. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2008; 86(4):269-274.