UN Report: 70% of Egyptian Men Approve of Female Genital Mutilation

By Patrick Goodenough | May 3, 2017 | 3:59 AM EDT

A new survey finds that young Arab men generally hold no less traditional views of gender equality than their elders. (Photo: Almohalhel1408/Wikimedia Commons)

(CNSNews.com) – Most men in the Arab region hold rigid views about the place of women and assert their right to control their wives’ decisions – ranging from where they go to whether to work, and from what they wear to when the couple has sex, according to a survey conducted by UN Women and Promundo, a non-governmental organization focused on equitable gender relations.

Seventy percent of Egyptian men and 56 percent of Egyptian women said they approve of female genital mutilation, the survey discovered. Seventy-four percent of Egyptian men and 56 percent of Egyptian women agreed that it "important to continue female circumcision because of customs and tradition."

Sixty-eight percent of Egyptian men and 59 percent of Egyptian women agreed that "female circumcision is required by religion."

At the same time, 96 percent of Egyptian men and 84 percent of Egyptian women agree that a husband expects his wife "to agree to have sex when he wants to."

The comprehensive new survey of men and women in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian territories also found that – unlike the case in similar studies elsewhere around the world –young men in the Arab region generally do not hold more equitable attitudes towards women than their older counterparts.

The report’s authors said this phenomenon – young men having as traditional views about women as older men – could be attributed to a “backlash against gender equality” resulting from difficulties in finding work and achieving “the socially recognized hallmark of a man as financial provider.”

They suggested that a “general climate of religious conservatism” in which young men have grown up may be a factor as well.

“Men frequently dominate or control household decision-making, political and leadership spaces, and the daily lives of women and girls,” the two organizations said in a release.

Attitudes in Egypt, the largest country in the Arab world, were especially striking.

In Egypt, 93 percent of male respondents and 86 percent of females strongly agreed with the statement that a “husband wants to know where his wife is at all times.” Ninety-eight percent of male respondents and 65 percent of females agreed that a “husband does not allow his wife to wear certain clothes.”

Ninety-one percent of male respondents and 69 percent of females agreed with the statement that a “husband controls when his wife can leave the house.” Ninety-six percent of male respondents and 84 percent of females agreed that a “husband expects wife to agree to have sex when he wants to.”

Other findings in Egypt included:

--Men are generally resistant to women working outside the home, or participating in public or political life. Only 31 percent of men agreed that a married woman had the same right to work outside the home as her husband.

--Asked whether they had ever seen their father perform selected domestic tasks, only six percent of respondents reported seeing fathers clean a bathroom or wash clothes.

-- Seventy percent of men – and 56 percent of women – expressed support for female genital mutilation, with 68 percent of men and 59 percent of women agreeing female circumcision is a religious requirement.

--Seventy-four percent of men--and 56 percent of women--agreed that it "is important to continue female circumcision because of customs and tradition."

“There is a long way to go for men to fully accept and support equality for women in the Arab region, as in many parts of the world,” said Gary Barker, the study’s co-author and president of Promundo.

“Across all four countries, we see that one of the biggest disrupters of gender inequality is when men take on more of the activities in the home typically defined as women’s roles.”

Provocative dress, sexual harassment, ‘honor killings’

In Morocco, more than half of male respondents reported ever having sexually harassed a woman or girl. More than 60 percent of women reported being on the receiving end of such unwanted attention.

But to a question about whether a woman who dresses provocatively deserves to be harassed, 78 percent of Moroccan female respondents agreed, compared to 72 percent of men.

Also in Morocco, 38.2 percent of men agreed that “there are time when a woman deserves to be beaten” – as did 20.6 percent of women.

Seventy-seven percent of Moroccan men (and 82 percent of women) said a woman should be a virgin when she gets married, while only 47 percent of men (and 30 percent of women) felt the same way about a man at marriage.

Sixty-two percent of Moroccan male respondents agreed that a “husband expects wife to agree to have sex when he wants to.”

In the Palestinian territories, 25 percent of male respondents and 22 percent of female respondents reported witnessing their mother being beaten by their father or a male relative during their childhood.

Seventeen percent of men admitted having ever perpetrated an act of physical violence against a female partner, while 21 percent of women reported ever having experienced such violence.

In the Palestinian survey, men with greater wealth, more education, and whose fathers took part in housework held more equitable attitudes, although there was no difference in gender attitudes between younger and older men.

Eighty-seven percent of Palestinian male respondents agreed that a “husband expects wife to agree to have sex when he wants to.”

In Lebanon, 68 percent of men (and 32 percent of women) agreed that “how female relatives act and dress directly affects a man’s honor” and 26 percent of men (and eight percent of women) agreed that such a woman should be punished by her family.

The survey did not specify the type of punishment, but the statements put to respondents refer to so-called “honor killings.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow