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January 25, 2007

Female genital mutilation persists in Egypt despite renewed opposition

Zaineb Tarek grew suspicious when relatives bundled her into a minivan and plied her with potato chips and sweets for a special trip to see the doctor. A feisty 7-year-old, she kicked and screamed when they pinned her to a table in the rural clinic near her village of Eneiba in southern Egypt. Then she saw the razor. The doctor sliced down on her genitals, deftly removing part of her clitoris. She shrieked and flailed, furiously brushing aside her mothers attempts to calm her. I screamed at her, Youre not my mother! No mother would ever do that to her child! recalled Tarek, whos now a slender 12-year-old with a pink veil framing her face. Tarek shared the searing memory at a recent womens gathering in Eneiba, a Nubian village along the Nile River in southern Egypt where the Egyptian government is campaigning to persuade residents to give up the practice of female genital mutilation. Its a difficult mission. The practice is nearly universal in Egypt. A government survey released last year found that 96 percent of Egyptian women whove been married have undergone some sort of genital mutilation and that nearly 70 percent of schoolgirls expected to be cut by the time they turn 18.

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