Violence Against Women

There is so much to be said about violence against women. First it is important to mention that violence against women takes place in various forms all around the world. From the prevalence of domestic violence in Guatemala, to sexual assault in the United States, forced marriage in Niger, female genital mutilation in Egypt, and verbal harassment in refugee camps in Jordan. Violence against women is all encompassing and extremely wide-spread.

The first step to eliminating violence against women is trying to understand how it transpires and the impacts that it has not only on women, but society as a whole. During a two week educational trip to Egypt, I took it upon myself to further examine the reasoning behind the high rates of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Egypt. Egypt has been cited as the “FGM Capitol of the World”, with a population of at least 92% of married Egyptian women between 15 and 34 who have been subject to cutting[1]. In Egypt, Muslims, Christian Copts, and atheists alike practice FGM[2]. The vast majority of Egyptians have acknowledged that this procedure is not religious, yet traditional, with about 60% of women in the 2014 EDHS report stating that they think FGM should continue[3]. In 2008 a federal law was passed that banned FGM/C in Egypt. Despite the passage of this law, there has only ever been one FGM related case brought to trial. I sought answers to why women continued to carry out this form of violence against their daughters, why they encouraged this practice throughout their communities and amongst other loved ones. The most insightful answer was addressed in a lecture delivered by Dr. Martina Rieker, Director of the Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies at the American University of Cairo, she stated that “FGM is still widely practiced in Egypt because Egyptian’s loyalty is more tied into their families than the state. They don’t mind breaking this law due to this. People are not willing to give their body over to the state to comply with this law”[4]. This answer left me with much to consider. In an authoritarian society where the government institutes and enforces a plethora of laws with little to no regard to the desires of the people, Egyptians consider FGM as a family matter that is best decided within the confines of their homes without government restriction. In no way am I advocating for the practice of FGM, but I would encourage those working to combat this form of violence against Egyptian women to consider how this practice is viewed within the Egyptian family structure to appropriately tailor their efforts. For instance, instead of stressing the point that the practice of FGM is illegal, focus on the physical and mental health impacts of FGM, or the psychological harm that women have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Women live in fear throughout all aspects of the day, EVERYDAY. Many countries are signatories to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and, or have domestic laws that protect women against violence, but there seems to be a gap between laws and implementation. The fragment between laws and implementation led me to conduct further research on culturally appropriate ways to address this universal issue. I firmly believe that the elimination of violence against women is possible. New laws protecting women are being passed every day, it is up to us to construct ways to ensure that these laws are implemented in our communities and in our everyday lives. Please help to stop violence against women at home, at work, in public, and online.

–by RMS

 

[1] Thompson, N. (2015, June 25). Egypt takes aim at female genital mutilation – CNN.com.

[2]Thompson, N. (2015, June 25). Egypt takes aim at female genital mutilation – CNN.com.

[3]Ministry of Health and Population [Egypt], El-Zanaty and Associates [Egypt], and ICF International. 2015. Egypt Demographic and Health Survey 2014. Cairo, Egypt and Rockville, Maryland, USA: Ministry of Health and Population and ICF International. P. 192.

[4]Reiker, Martina. “Gender Development.” Lecture, Egyptian Politics, American University of Cairo, Cairo, December 14, 2015.

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