“Don’t turn your face away.
Once you’ve seen, you can no longer act like you don’t know.
Open your eyes to the truth. It’s all around you.
Don’t deny what the eyes to your soul have revealed to you.
Now that you know, you cannot feign ignorance.
Now that you’re aware of the problem, you cannot pretend you don’t care.
To be concerned is to be human.
To act is to care.”
― Vashti Quiroz-Vega
“Abuse manipulates and twists a child’s natural sense of trust and love. Her innocent feelings are belittled or mocked and she learns to ignore her feelings. She can’t afford to feel the full range of feelings in her body while she’s being abused—pain, outrage, hate, vengeance, confusion, arousal. So she short-circuits them and goes numb. For many children, any expression of feelings, even a single tear, is cause for more severe abuse. Again, the only recourse is to shut down. Feelings go underground.”
― Laura Davis, Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse
“Since most sexual abuse begins well before puberty, preventive education, if it is to have any effect at all, should begin early in grade school.”
― Judith Lewis Herman, Father-Daughter Incest: With a New Afterword
“Society gives the image of sexual violators as weird, ugly, anti-social, alcoholics. Society gives the impression that violators kidnap children are out of their homes and take them to some wooded area and abandon them after the violation. Society gives the impression that everyone hates people who violate children. If all of these myths were true, healing would not be as challenging as it is.
Half of our healing is about the actual abuse. The other half is about how survivors fit into society in the face of the myths that people hold in order to make themselves feel safe. The truth is that 80% of childhood sexual abuse is perpetrated by family members. Yet we rarely hear the word “incest”. The word is too ugly and the truth is too scary. Think about what would happen if we ran a campaign to end incest instead of childhood sexual abuse. The number one place that children should know they are safe is in their homes. As it stands, as long as violators keep sexual abuse within the family, the chances of repercussion by anyone is pretty low. Wives won’t leave violating husbands, mothers won’t kick their violating children out of the home, and violating grandparents still get invited to holiday dinners. It is time to start cleaning house. If we stop incest first, then we will strengthen our cause against all sexual abuse.”
― Rosenna Bakari
“The rape of a child is a violent act of contempt, not an expression of sexuality or affection.”
― Mike Lew, Gay Men and Childhood Sexual Trauma
“Much of the atrocities that are committed towards Arab women occur partly because the victim does not know that she has a basic right for her body to be hers, for her privacy to be respected and for her education to be a necessity not a privilege she receives if it is financially possible after her brother has been educated.”
― Aysha Taryam
The crime of child marriage, connected with child rape, sexual abuse and FGM;
"FGM is a barbaric crime, always connected with child marriage, child rape and forced underaged and often deadly childbirths. If FGM would be done on men and boys, there whole genitals would cut. But many men worldwide want FGM to enslave women, girls and female childs and babies. After FGM the females are no humans only fucking holes and baby making machines for men. FGM is the most heinous crime of mankind and it starts from Egypt, the country, where the males are proud of the history of country, but the history of Egypt ist built on blood and tears and the cruel femicide of women, girls, female childs and babies. I cannot see any culture in these horrible crimes and I must say, 4000 years FGM and child marriage, what a country of male perverts and sadists!! I spit on the arguments that FGM is good for females, it's good for male sadists, because they can rape, torture and murder females without any punishment. Egypt has no culture, because it's until now the badest country worldwide for women, girls, female childs and babies and it's the country, that invented FGM, the biggest crime in the human history!"
For example Egypt:
7% of girls in Egypt are married before their 18th birthday. While the rate of child marriage in Egypt is declining, religious and traditional ideals and customs have stalled this progress.
Child marriage mainly affects girls living in poorer rural areas and is on the rise in some locations, including Upper Egypt.
Child marriage in Egypt is closely associated with deeply rooted cultural practices. 92% of the female population in Egypt have experienced Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), illustrating the persistence of patriarchal norms around women’s sexuality.
Girls’ disproportionate access to education is among the key causes of child marriage in Egypt. 13% of females and 3% of males aged 10 to 29 have never been to school.
As girls reach adolescence, community norms dictate that they should be married, perpetuating the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
The 2015 Trafficking in Persons report highlights cases where individuals from the Gulf buy Egyptian girls for ‘temporary’ or ‘summer’ marriages, for prostitution or forced labour. These arrangements are often facilitated by the girls’ families, who profit from the transaction.
Legal age of marriage
The legal age of marriage in Egypt was increased to 18 following amendment of Egypt’s Child Law in 2008, which prohibits, but does not criminalise, the registration of child marriages.
After the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, proposals for draft legislation which would reduce the minimum age of marriage for girls from 18 to possibly as low as nine years old surfaced from conservative forces in the new government. Thanks to the mobilisation of the National Council for Women and others, the proposals weren’t taken any further.
In October 2017, Egypt’s Minister of Health and Population announced plans to finalise legislation to criminalise child marriage.
National strategy to end child marriage
A five-year national strategy to prevent child marriage was launched in 2014. The process was led by the National Population Council, a governmental body which establishes national population policies and strategies in Egypt.
Recognising the need to prioritise child marriage as a health and population issue, the strategy aims to reduce the prevalence of early marriage by 50% within the next five years. It came about against the backdrop of the proposals to lower the minimum age of marriage and is currently in the first stage of implementation.
The strategy focuses on two approaches:
A rights-based approach, which works towards ensuring children’s rights are upheld by religious and customs, not just by the Constitution;
A partnership approach bringing together government, civil society and the private sector to work together.
However, the implementation of the strategy slowed down after the Ministry of Population was disbanded in 2016, and due to political insecurity and restrictions on civil society. Further clarity on the strategy’s status is needed from those working on the ground in Egypt.
Female genital mutilation: Why Egyptian girls fear the summer:
Summer days: They're what childhood memories are made of, glorious afternoons of unchecked freedom to frolic with friends in the sun, unshackled from the earthly obligations of a math class that never seemed further away.
But for millions of schoolgirls in Egypt, this time of year represents something much darker: the start of the female genital mutilation (FGM) season.
Mona Mohamed was 10 years old when she underwent what's also known as a female circumcision on a hot summer day in her village in Upper Egypt.
"I was terrified," she said. "They tied me down, my mother on one hand and my grandmother on the other."
As Mona thrashed around, pinned by her loved ones to the living room floor, a doctor injected her with anesthesia.
Mona remembers being given a piece of bubble gum to chew on before she finally passed out. It wasn't until she woke up that she realized she had been mutilated.
Egypt: The FGM capital of the world
Stories like Mona's are far from rare in Egypt, where "cutting" has been a brutal rite of passage for young girls since the time of the pharaohs.
Of the more than 125 million girls and women alive today who have undergone the procedure, one in four live in Egypt. That's more than any other country in the world, according to the U.N.
Ninety-two percent of married Egyptian women aged 15 to 49 have been subjected to FGM, according to a government report released in May. That figure is down from 97% in 2000, but the practice is still the norm here.
Most girls are cut between the ages of nine and 12, and the operations usually take place during the summer school break so the girls can recover at home.
U.N. officials say FGM has no medical benefits and can cause lifelong physical and emotional trauma for the women forced to undergo the procedure.
"This is a gross human rights violation," Jaime Nadal-Roig, the U.N. Population Fund representative in Cairo, told CNN. "It doesn't add anything to the life of the girl, and there are no medical or religious grounds whatsoever."
A celebrated tradition
The most common FGM procedure in Egypt is Type 1, the partial or full removal of the clitoris. It's what Mona Mohamed -- and her older sisters -- endured years ago.
Compared to her sisters, Mona was lucky, given that her procedure was performed by a doctor. Her sisters were circumcised with a razor blade by a traditional (non-medical) midwife who put dust on their wounds to stop the bleeding.
Mona, now 47, recalls asking her mother why getting circumcised was so important. "Usually girls at your age get 'excited,' and this operation takes care of that," her mother replied.
FGM has been illegal in Egypt since 2008, but the practice remains woven into the very fabric of Egyptian society, where many see cutting as a way to "purify" a girl and make her marriage material.
"People used to have a party after a girl was circumcised, they'd celebrate and exchange gifts," Nadal-Roig said. "So for them to turn from there and say, 'look this is a crime or this is a sin or this is not allowed by religion' means confronting a lot of beliefs and social norms."
Campaigners go on the offensive
But progress is being made. The percentage of girls aged 15 to 17 who have had the procedure has dropped from 74.4% in 2008 to 61% in 2014 -- a clear sign that the drive to end FGM is working, campaigners say.
Last week Egypt announced a plan to reduce FGM by 10-15% in the next five years. If it works, it will mean that for the first time in decades, "uncut" girls would outnumber those who have had the procedure.
"It's an ambitious plan, but now I think that the political atmosphere is supporting us and we can reach our goal," said Vivian Fouad, the National Population Council official leading the government's charge to eradicate FGM.
"For years we were on (the) defense, but now we're on the offensive."
The fight to eradicate FGM in Egypt is unfolding on a number of fronts, from the courts to the places of worship to the streets of the highest-risk towns.
In January a doctor was sentenced on charges related to mutilating a girl -- the first conviction of its kind since the 2008 ban went into effect.
The verdict was a victory for the anti-FGM campaign, but Fouad says too many doctors are still willing to take the money from families and look the other way when it comes to the law.
"It's a good income for doctors," Fouad said. "And some doctors have social and cultural backgrounds where FGM is supported."
Fouad classifies the battle against female circumcision as a fight for the middle class: "If doctors, judges, prosecutors, and teachers are supporting FGM, how are we going to convince poorer women not to have it?"
Campaigners are also trying to persuade local religious leaders to stop preaching the alleged benefits of FGM to mothers. It's often a tough sell in a country where more than half of women still believe, falsely, that cutting is required by religion, according to the most recent survey.
"You need to make people not want to do it for their daughters," said UNFPA program officer Germain Haddad. "You need to work on people's convictions."
To that end, the UNFPA has hired a theater group to perform comedic skits in the streets of communities across the country to foster debate -- and doubt -- about the necessity of FGM.
"Many of these people are shy," said Haddad. "When we used to do seminars on FGM it was very difficult to get people to speak up and ask questions.
"These plays act as an icebreaker that opens up the subject like magic," she said. "And women get to see in a comedic way that FGM is ridiculous."
"I hate the man that did this to me"
But it remains an uphill struggle. Around six in 10 women think the practice should continue, according to the most recent government survey.
"It's tradition, and there's no escape," says Sarah Abulaziz Mohamed, who was circumcised at 12 in her village of Mansour.
"It hurt my dignity -- I was forced to do this act that I didn't want to do," she said. "I hate the man that did this to me."
Sarah is 40 now and has two young daughters of her own. She says FGM left her with lifelong psychological trauma, but at least it taught her a valuable lesson.
"I definitely wouldn't do it to my daughters by any means," she said. "To this day I still have pain, and what's gone is gone ... that part of me can never be given back again."
At the beginning of 2016, 33.4 million children (aged 0-17) lived in Egypt, around 37 per cent of the entire population. The recent increase in fertility rates and in the total number of births determined an acceleration of the child population growth, which in 2014 increased by around 1 million individuals*.
Remarkable progress was achieved in reducing child mortality and achieving the MDG 4. In 2014, the under-5 mortality rate was 27 deaths per thousand live births, down from 85 deaths per thousand live births in 1990. However, subnational disparities persist, with children in Rural Upper Egypt and in urban slums at greater disadvantage. Trends in nutrition indicators show progress in recent years: stunting rates dropped from 29 per cent to 21 per cent among under-five children. Important progress occurred in expanding the access to water and sanitation service, yet around 10 per cent of the population is not properly served by the water network or do not have access to improved sanitation, especially in rural areas and urban slums**.
In the education sector, Egypt was successful in expanding the infrastructure capacity to accommodate a rapidly growing student population, having by far the largest education system in Middle East and North Africa, with more than 20 million children enrolled. Enrollment in basic education is almost universal for both boys and girls. Progress has been relatively slow for pre-primary education, with just one third of children aged 4-5 year old enrolled***. The major challenges concern the quality of education, including inadequate infrastructure, teaching and disciplinary techniques.
The large majority of children are negatively affected by violence. 93 per cent of children aged 1-14 years were subject to violent disciplinary practices at home according to a survey conducted in 2014. Despite the recent improvements, Female Genital Mutilation is still widespread. In 2014, the prevalence of FGM among girls aged 15-17 was 61 per cent, down from 74 per cent in 2008, but reaching 90 per cent in some areas of Upper Egypt. There are also persistent trends of early marriages and teenage pregnancies. Nationwide, 6 per cent of girls aged 15-17 are married, and 11 per cent of girls aged 15-19 had at least one pregnancy**.
The share of children deprived of their rights to survival, health, education and protection is therefore still substantial in Egypt. Monetary poverty, lack of resources at the household levels, and lack of access to quality social services or their unequal distribution, are among the determinants of such deprivation. Overall, around 9.2 million children were living below the national lower poverty line in 2012/13. An additional 7.5 million children were close to that threshold and vulnerable to extreme poverty.