Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Friday, February 7, 2014

What happens when girls ride donkeys?

(February 7, 2014)

Every so often, the BBC Arabic does a segment about female circumcision. It is called al-khitaan in Arabic. Today, this was induced by a UNCEF report that came out.

BBC Arabic presenter Malak Jaafar was directing.

 Malak and UNICEF

First, they showed which Arabic countries had landed on the report. Iraq was on the list with the lowest rate of female cutting (8%). Well, I think most Arab countries have a rate close to zero, but this report just ranked countries with a problem.

Next came Yemen, with 23%. Yemen passed a law against al-khitaan in 2001:

And you thought you couldn't read Arabic!

Next came Sudan:

Egypt, always causing trouble, where 91% of women are cut, although a law was passed against it in 2008. Malak discussed that later with an Egyptian doctor ...

 And Somalia, with a 98% rate.

Egypt was the focus for the rest of the segment. Malak showed some opinions of random people on the Egyptian street, mostly men, and all of whom said the 2008 law against FGM needs better enforcement.

And then, Malak did an interview with a twinkly-eyed Egyptian doctor, who was a riot:

 Basically the bluntest conversation I've heard on the BBC Arabic, so blunt I blush to transcribe it all.

Malak asked something like: why is female circumcision so prevalent in African nations?

Egyptian doctor: it's not because they're Black! It's because of the old ways of patriarchy.

Malak: In Islam, men can marry four wives, but women can marry only one man. Isn't al-khitaan just another way that Islam controls women?

Egyptian doctor: No! It is not about Islam. In Judaism, female circumcision is written into the Torah [I don't know if that's true]. There are Christian Copts here in Egypt, and they practice al-khitaan. They're Christian, not Muslim!

Malak: your activism against al-khitaan is such a liberal idea. Don't you get push-back when you go to rural villages and try to convince them not to cut their daughters?

Egyptian doctor: actually, we can talk to them about it. They tell us, "if we don't cut our girls, it will open up a can of worms: because, we don't want our girls to ride donkeys and feel any sort of anything." So we tell them, "when boys ride donkeys, don't they feel something? and therefore, why don't we cut them?"

Continues: Then the villagers we speak with say, "oh!"

Malak: well, if there's a law in Egypt against al-khitaan, why is it that 91% of the female population is cut (and this figure has been steadily increasing.)

Egyptian doctor: the law is just symbolic, something the government did to shut up the international community. It's been this way ever since Sadat and Mubarak. I've been blocked many times from speaking about the bad effects of female cutting on TV. My books have been banned. I was kicked out of the Health Ministry [I think that's what she said] because I spoke out about it!

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