Explaining the Persistence of Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt

Date of Award

Spring 5-24-2015

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science


Political Science & International Relations


Dr. Avi Spiegel


This project examines the persistence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Egypt, despite a legislative ban on the practice in 2008. Between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, with 27.2 million women cut in Egypt alone. The procedure involves the alteration of aspects of the female genitalia, including removal of the clitoris or narrowing of the vaginal opening. While many contend that the practice continues because of traditional, cultural, or even religious norms, I argue that FGM remains prevalent in Egypt because of a widespread lack of education on the subject, exacerbated by the educational disparities between men and women. Furthermore, a judicial failure to enforce laws banning the operation only serves to perpetuate FGM in Egypt. I first explore the religious and cultural reasoning behind the practice in Egypt, and then explain why commonly held theories fail to explain the persistence of FGM. I then propose education as the most compelling explanation, examining literacy, higher education, and FGM educational programs as key components to ending FGM. Finally, I examine the failure to prosecute FGM in Egypt, looking to France as a model for discouraging the practice. Overall, I posit that failures at the grassroots and judicial levels create a suitable environment for female genital mutilation to persist in Egypt.

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