Babylon & Beyond

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YEMEN: Parliament upholds female circumcision

April 16, 2008 | 10:35 am


Yemen's conservatives are still in control.

After a heated debate in parliament this month, Yemeni women's rights advocates lost their battle to ban female circumcision, according to a report in the Yemen Times.

The parliament in recent days voted against a bill that would have outlawed female genital mutilation, a practice that is believed to affect almost 25% of Yemeni women.

Opponents claimed that the issue remains too sensitive among Yemeni and that no legal measure could be taken as long as there was no consensus among religious scholars against the practice.

Female circumcision is a widespread practice in the Middle East and Africa. Many Muslims believe that removing a girl's clitoris to tame her libido is a religious obligation.

Top Muslim clerics, including the Grand Sheik of al-Azhar Mosque, the world's oldest Sunni Muslim religious institution, have repeatedly decried the practice as purely traditional and without basis in Islamic scriptures.

Yet the scholars’ declarations have not been able to end to the centuries-old practice.

Egyptian lawmakers have been embroiled in a similar debate. A draft bill calling for the criminalization of the practice has been dismissed by Islamic lawmakers in Cairo as a Western ploy to demonize Islamic traditions.

Noha El-Hennawy in Beirut

Photo: Yemeni women attended ceremonies in the city of Aden marking the anniversary of the British withdrawal from their country. Credit: EPA/YAHYA ARHAB