BY JENNIFER BREEDON Tuesday, April 25, 2017.
Reda Eldanbouki is an old friend of Clarion Project. He heads the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness (WCGLA) in Egypt. The organization deals with women’s issues in general and FGM and early marriage in particular. The center advocates for equality in the eyes of the law. The WCGLA also deal provides homosexual women and men with legal aid in order to have a safe environment in which they can work and live in Egypt.
Jennifer Breedon recently interviewed Reda in Cairo and they began by discussing gay rights.
Reda Eldanbouki: Gay men and women unfortunately can’t find a safe environment to live in Egypt, and they also lack legal and psychological support. Unfortunately, they’re always discriminated against and accusations are fabricated against them. That’s why we try to provide them with legal aid and awareness courses for safe sex, to prevent diseases and to enable them to live in a healthy environment. We hope to cooperate in this matter with organizations inside and outside of Egypt. We hope doors will open for them and hands will reach out to support them.
Jennifer Breedon: Tells us about circumcision of women during the Ramadan Muslim holy month.
Reda Eldanbouki: It’s very unfortunate that in every month of Ramadan in one of the villages in Upper Egypt they perform collective circumcision of children from both sexes, for 30 days and there is a celebration. At that time, you can breathe the smell of blood and see horrific things. Even though the government knows about it and it gets published in the media, it doesn’t do anything. Even though there’s been a law against FGM since 2008, it’s of no benefit. We try to reach independent, governmental or civil-society organizations and others to put an end to this activity and with time end FGM totally. We say to the government: We are ready to act against it, but you need to help us.
Jennifer Breedon: In order to combat the ideology and to help, are there any Islamic clerics in Egypt, who are trying to stop FGM or violence against women?
Reda Eldanbouki: In reality, we have a problem with the Islamic part. The law says no to FGM, but there are two sides to the fiqh (the process of gaining knowledge of Islam through jurisprudence). There’s a Salafi extremist side that says a woman must be circumcised, and that circumcision is sunnah and an obligation, and if it isn’t performed that woman would be damaged. The other side argues FGM is forbidden and is not obligatory according to sharia law.
There are two fatwas – a fatwa forbidding FGM and another fatwa that sees it as an obligation. Ali Gomaa, former grand mufti of Egypt, says FGM is forbidden. But there’s also a sheikh called Ahmed Karima who used to work with women’s organizations. He used to say FGM is forbidden, but now he says it’s honorable and must be done. There’s a contradiction.
Also in the House of Representatives there’s a member, Ahmed el-Tahawi, who serves on the Health Committee. He, together with female members, used to call for FGM. We filed a complaint and afterwards they apologized. There’s also a member called el-Hami Agina who called for FGM.
Now we have a crisis as some of the members responsible for legislation are calling for FGM. The problem is that even if we work with the people, we also need to work with members of the House of Representatives. This will take time but we’re working on it.
Jennifer Breedon: How can international attorneys help your work?
Reda Eldanbouki: You can help us. We work outside of Greater Cairo in many places that have FGM and early marriage. We need you to shed light on it and involve the media. We also need material support for youth organizations, especially in rural areas where FGM is performed. We need protection for gay men and women so they can enjoy their rights and live in a safe environment. We await your support and we’re happy to create partnerships.
**This article was originally published at clarionproject.org