Egyptian Center for Women s Rights -ecwr@link.net





Conference on Religion and FGM, Early and Forced Marriage in East Africa

 7th-8th June  2006 in Egypt


An estimated 130 million women in Africa have undergone FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), a practice carried out in approximately 28 African countries.  Across East Africa girls and young women face FGM, which violate their rights and pose a severe risk to their mental and physical health. Infibulation, the most severe form of mutilation is practiced predominantly in Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti as well as in some parts of Ethiopia and Egypt. Ethiopians perform genital cutting within a few days of birth, and Sudanese girls experience it by age 12.

The health consequences of FGM are both immediate and life-long including haemorrhage, trauma, and infections, including HIV/AIDS. In fact FGM is one of the main health hazards that has significantly contributed to a very high maternal mortality rate in Somalia. Obstructed labour due to genital scarring is one of the most common complications of FGM.

Islam is often incorrectly cited as a justification for female genital mutilation (FGM). According to the official reading of Muslim theologians, the circumcision of girls and women is not mentioned in the Quran and cannot be attributed to either the Sunni or Shiite traditions. In order to emphasise this, theologians cite Islam’s conception of health as a gift of God, the principle of physical integrity as well as respect for human beings of both sexes, who were created complete by God. The Muslim population in Africa countries is strongly influenced by the interpretation of the Quran and the Hadiths by local Muslim leaders or imams, who belong to either conservative or progressive groups.

The Hadiths are based on statements or actions attributed to the prophet Mohammed as well as ways of behaving and acting, which were approved by him.

On the other hand, Early and Forced Marriage constitutes multiple abuses of girl’s human rights. Normally hidden under the socially sanctioned cloak of marriage, underage girls are deprived of their personal freedom, forced into non-consensual sex, exploitation of their labour and diminution of their education development and individual life choices. In some societies in East Africa, there is a tradition of abduction and rape as being acceptable in the procurement of a wife. Furthermore, they are subject to life-threatening damage to their health by having to go through pregnancy and childbirth before their bodies are sufficiently mature to do so. The fact that the arrangement is socially accepted does not diminish the reality that a girl is deliberately exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation, usually arranged by her parents and family.

In parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and other East African countries, religious leaders condone early marriage of girls for various reasons. The linkage between FGM and different forms of marriage is not straight forward, but in some situations FGM is a precursor to early marriage.





The Egyptian Centre for Women Rights (ECWR) www.ecwregypt.org in partnership with National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (Egypt) and in collaboration with Sudan National Committee on Traditional Practices (SNCTP) www.snctp.org , Babakir Badri Centre for Women Studies, (Sudan, Care for Girls Committee (Egypt), Women Association of Tigray, Kembatta Mentti Gezzima – Toppe (KMG) www.kmgselfhelp.com, Integrated Community Development, Education and Development Association (ICEDA) (Ethiopia), Gender and Development Centre, Pokot-Kiletat,(Kenya), Save Somali Women and Children, Barako Family and Health Support (Somalia) with the support of WOMANKIND Worldwide are organising a two day conference on FGM and Early Marrige in view of developing a common understanding of religion on the issues. The conference will take place from 7th-8th June 2006 in Cairo.

The conference is part of the East Africa Four Literacies Programme www.fourliteracies.org contribution to the effort of eradication of the FGM and Early and Forced Marriage practice in East Africa and the world.

The venue will be Cairotel  Hotel in Maadi, Cairo. The hotel is about fifteen minutes drive from down town Cairo and about half an hour drive from Cairo International Airport.


To create a forum of exchange and learning between religious leaders, scholars and thinkers, NGO, civil society, AU, UN, so as to examine analyses and develop a common understanding of religion on female circumcision and early and forced marriage.



·         To identify the views of Islam on women violation (physical psychological, social and developmental in general).

·         To critically examine the interpretation of hadith and FGM, early and forced marriage.

·         Reach a consensus on religious perspectives on FGM, early and forced marriage.

·         To develop a mutual understanding of the role of religious leaders in the eradication of FGM, early and forced marriage

Expected outcome

A common understanding of religious views on FGM and a common action plan aimed at mobilising the support of religious leaders in eradication of FGM, early and forced marriage and drawing up of advocacy plans to tackle the issues.


Participants will be invited from Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, drawn from thinkers, experts in Islamic hadith, legislation, Islamic Education, government sectors and NGOs. The conference will be conducted in plenary and in thematic working sessions


The Steering Committee:

·         SNCTP (Sudan)

·         Barako health and Family Support  (Somaliland)

·         Pokot Kiletat (Kenya)

·         ECWR (Egypt)

·         CFG (Egypt)

·         WOMANKIND Worldwide (U.K)


The steering committee responsibilities:

·         Preparation and implementation.

·         Follow-up the preparation and the production of the forum proceedings document.

·         Production of a report on the forum discussion to be distributed locally, regionally and international


Thematic focus and presentations

·         Religion (Religious views and interpretation of hadith)

·         Health

·         Human rights and legal aspects (Rights and legal protection)



A reference document for religious leaders of the conference that will be distributed locally, regionally and internationally

To leave the list, send your request by email to: wunrn_listserve-request@lists.wunrn.com. Thank you.