Although female genital cutting (FGC) is illegal in Egypt and rates are declining, medicalization of the practice has increased. However, little is known about why some mothers prefer that FGC be performed by medical professionals or the degree to which such professionals may influence decisions about the practice.
Data collected in 2014 from a survey of 410 women with young daughters, and from in-depth interviews with 29 of those women, were used to examine the role of consultations with medical professionals in mothers' decisions about FGC. Women were asked about their experiences, perceptions, knowledge and intentions regarding FGC and their interactions with medical personnel. An open coding approach was used to analyze qualitative data, while multivariate regression was used to identify correlates of intending to consult a doctor and knowing that FGC is illegal.
Medical professionals were the main providers of FGC to study participants. Mothers wanted FGC performed by doctors to mitigate the perceived risks of the procedure. About one-third of mothers planned to consult a doctor in deciding whether to have their daughters cut. Women reported that doctors performed physical examinations and subsequently recommended that daughters either be cut, not be cut or be re-examined in the future. Most respondents expressed high levels of trust in doctors.
Since mothers appear to value their opinions, doctors could contribute to the abandonment of FGC if they consistently recommend against the practice. The ban on FGC is unlikely to be effective in the absence of broader social change.
Sepideh Modrek is instructor, Division of General Medical Disciplines, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA. At the time this article was written, Maia Sieverding was social scientist, Department of Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, USA.
Author contact: [email protected]