" A little known fact about Egyptian women is that the vast majority of them - up to 97 percent according to one survey - have been subjected to the horrific operation known euphemistically as "female circumcision", and more correctly as female genital mutilation (FGM). In this procedure, typically carried out on girls aged between 7 on 10, the clitoris and sometimes all or part of the inner vaginal lips are cut off. Obviously, this prevents the victim from enjoying sex. FGM is an African rather than an Islamic practice, and in Egypt it is performed by Copts as much as by Muslims. Nonetheless, spurious religious reasons are given to justify it, including two disputed hadiths(quotations from Mohammed). In 1951, the Egyptian Fatwa Committee decreed that FGM was desirable because it curbs women's sex drive, and in 1981 the Sheikh of al-Azhar Mosque and University said that it was the duty of the parents to have their daughters genitally mutilated. The good news is that things have changed a little a bit since then. Firstly, FGM is now, at least in theory,illegal - the government banned it in 1996 after a CNN documentary exposed the practice, and the Supreme Court threw out an attempt by Islamic fundamentalists to have a ban declared unconstitutional. On the other hand, the law is rarely enforced, and it would be hard for the government to enforce it, even if they really wanted to. Secondly, though some forty percent of victims still have the operation performed by a barber or similarly non-qualified person, and without anesthetic. Thirdly, the incidence of, and support of, FGM is beginning to decline, though still at high levels: a survey in 2000 found that 78 percent of 11- to 19-year-olds had been victims of FGM compared to 83 percent in 1995, and that support for the practice among Egyptian women had fallen from 82 percent to 75 percent. As for the religious authorities, both the current Sheikh of Al-Azhar and the Coptic pope have stated that FGM is not a religious requirement, though of course that falls well short of condemnation."
Source: The Rough Guide to Egypt 2007