SIDFA, Egypt (AP) — In this ancient village in southern Egypt on the banks of the Nile, some women are now speaking out about a long-standing tradition once never discussed.
Female genital mutilation is rampant in Egypt, with an estimated 90 percent of women in the country having undergone the forceful procedure — misguidedly called "circumcision" — as children out of the belief that it controls women's sexuality. The United Nations says the practice is concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Egypt's government criminalized the practice in 2008 and religious leaders have declared it dangerous and without any spiritual justification, but rights advocates say it is still widespread.
Here in Sidfa, 340 kilometers (210 miles) south of Cairo, several survivors spoke to The Associated Press about undergoing female genital mutilation as children without anesthesia.
"I ran out of my house onto the streets screaming when I saw the midwife," said Samya Shehata, 35, a Coptic Christian. "My mom eventually caught me, helped the midwife hold me down and did the operation."
Laila Nazma, 37, remembered it as "a day of hell," having undergone it at age 12.
"I will never forget when my mother said, 'Let's go,' and I knew what she was talking about," said Nazma, also a Coptic Christian. "I fainted from the pain and bled a lot. When I woke up after the operation I felt like I was butchered."
Youssra Hosny, a 34-year-old Muslim, was cut at 9 months old.
"When I grew older I wanted to understand what happened to me," Hosny said. "I decided to visit the midwife that did this to me. I told her to tell me the story. She did. I was very angry after I found out everything. I have two daughters and would never do this to them."
Here are a series of evocative portraits by AP photographer Nariman El-Mofty of female genital mutilation survivors.
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