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>> The Egyptian Gazette


The Egyptian Gazette - December 15, 2008 by Ashraf Madbouli Egypt's First Lady Suzanne Mubarak yesterday renewed call for an international campaign to fight female genital mutilation (FGM), one of the worst practices committed against females across the world. "There needs to be political support from countries all over the world to fight FGM," Mrs Mubarak told the opening session of an anti-FGM forum in Cairo yesterday. Egypt's National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) and the non-profit organization No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) are re-launching an international campaign against FGM by convening the forum, a three-day high-level regional conference in Cairo, entitled "The Cairo Declaration +5". Mrs Mubarak added that Egypt had a long way to go in its fight against FGM, despite legislation passed this year by Parliament to criminalize the practice. "However, it's great that we're on the right track and making progress," she said, explaining that stepping up the media campaign and "political efforts against FGM at all levels should be the focus of the coming stage". Burkina Faso's First Lady Chantal Compaor├ę and delegates from 20 African countries are attending the forum. "This year is really a turning point in Egypt's history of fighting FGM. An amendment to the Child Law that banned the practice has been adopted and included in the Penal Code. This is a giant step forward in the battle against FGM," Moushira Khattab, the Secretary-General of the NCCm told the gathering. In Egypt, efforts to ban FGM were stepped up following the FGM-related death of a 12-years-old girl called Bedour in Upper Egypt last year. "Bedour was the keyword that pushed everyone to help finalize the bill against FGM. The meeting is encouraging political and social efforts to end this violent practice," said Khattab. "Therefore, the delegates today are going to visit Sindbis and Zirab Ezbet el-Nakhl in el-Qaloubia Governatorate, in order to witness these two villages being declared FGM free. We need to let the visiting delegations see Egypt's efforts with their own eyes," Khattab explained. Emma Bonino, the founder of NPWJ and Vice-President of Italy's Senate, praised African and Egyptian efforts to fight FGM and urged more orchestrated fieldwork by both civil society groups and governments to eradicate the practice. "I can now say the wall of silence has collapsed. It is no longer embarrassing to talk about FGM in Egypt," Bonino said. She added that the purpose of the meeting was to consolidate commitments and most successful initiatives undertaken at the national and regional levels and transform them into a stable, coherent political strategy. Five years after the Cairo Declaration for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, at a meeting held by NPWJ and NCCM in Cairo from 21-23 June 2003, this forum "provides an opportunity to share knowledge and experience accumulated at regional and national levels, in order to identify and consolidate the best strategies and legislative policies against FGM". Last year, the Supreme Council of Islamic Research of Al-Azhar, the highest religious authority in the country, issued a statement saying that FGM and cutting are harmful, have no basis in core Islamic law and should not be practiced. The measures against FGM in Egypt were initiated following Bedour's death. Mrs Mubarak dedicated a minute of silence to this FGM victim during the Third Regional Conference on Violence against Children, held in June 2007, and announced the launch of a national campaign aimed at creating awareness of this harmful practice and accelerating efforts to have it legally banned. The Cairo conference is organized with the supporto of the Italian Development Co-operation Agency, the World Bank and the involvement of UN agencies concerned with the fight against FGM, especially the UNFP and UNICEF.

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