Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), officially referred to as female circumcision and at community level as tahara (cleanliness), is still prevalent in Egypt. This study was designed to examine the role of female sexuality in women's and men's continued support for FGM/C, and their perceptions of its sexual consequences. The study was conducted in 2008-09 in two rural communities in Upper Egypt and a large slum area in Cairo. Qualitative data were collected from 102 women and 99 men through focus group discussions and interviews. The clitoris was perceived to be important to, and a source of, sexual desire rather than sexual pleasure. FGM/C was intended to reduce women's sexual appetite and increase women's chastity, but was generally not believed to reduce women's sexual pleasure. Men and women framed sexual pleasure differently, however. While men, especially younger men, considered sexual satisfaction as a cornerstone of marital happiness, women considered themselves sexually satisfied if there was marital harmony and their socio-economic situation was satisfactory. However, sexual problems, including lack of pleasure in sex and sexual dissatisfaction, for whatever reasons, were widespread. We conclude that political commitment is necessary to combat FGM/C and that legal measures must be combined with comprehensive sexuality education, including on misconceptions about FGM/C.
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