Oman

Country: Oman

Population: 3.6 million

Estimated prevalence among women aged 15-49:

Unknown.

Country-wide data is unobtainable because no widespread studies have been conducted. A small study carried out in 2014 by Habiba al Hinai questioned 100 men and 100 women from all regions in a hospital waiting room and found that 78% of these women were cut.  Another study by Hoda Thabet of 200 women, mostly of Omani decent, in the ad-Dakhiliya province of Oman found that 95.5% of women self-reported as having undergone FGC. In the same study 86% of women said they planned to, or already had, cut their daughters. According to an April 2006 UNICEF report, 85% of females of all ages accept FGC as a practice, with 53% having had the procedure done themselves (46% had partial cutting, 8% had the most severe form of FGC, and 46% had no form of FGC). This attitude was significantly higher in the interior regions than the capital or coastal regions and was inversely associated with higher level of parent (especially mothers’) education.

Omani blogger Susan Al Shari describes an elderly woman with a frankincense burner offering her service to mothers of newborn girls on maternity wards, using the burner to burn the area after the cut to ensure that all nerves are dead.

According to a doctor working in one of Oman's regional hospitals, 60% of mothers giving birth under her care had been cut. Hinai’s study showed that 38% of these women hold university and higher education degrees, in comparison to 14% of women who hold high school diplomas.

Type practiced:

From the above studies, it appears that Types I and II are the most prevalent forms of FGC in Oman.

Legal status:

There are no laws banning FGC in Oman. However, there was a ministerial decree effective from 9th January 2001 prohibiting the practice in government and private health facilities. The government claims that more research is needed before an outright ban can be imposed. Al Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research, the highest religious authority in Egypt, issued a statement saying that the practice has no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions and that it is harmful and should not be practiced.

History of FGC in Oman:

Although the Omani Ministry of Health has mentioned FGC as a concern, there has been little discussion about FGC in Oman throughout history. Most reports of FGC originate from the southern province of Dhofar where Type II is the most common.

Current efforts to abandon FGC:

WADI – an NGO working to end FGC in the Middle East and Asia - reached out to Al Hinai about conducting some initial research about FGC in Oman.

As part of the Health Ministry’s ‘Five-Year Health Plan: 2006-2010’, a study into FGC in Oman was announced, along with plans for the design of community awareness programmes. However, this has not happened and there are now calls from the younger generation for enforcement of laws and better healthcare and education around FGC.

After journalists and bloggers spoke out against the practice, the US Embassy in Muscat held a discussion for women interested in the topic on the International Day against FGC on February 6, 2011. “I started studying about FGM and came to learn that the practice is more prevalent in Oman than I had realised,” said Christine Harper, political officer at the US Embassy, who initiated the event.

Ongoing challenges:

The conversation around FGC in Oman is only just beginning after a long silence. Getting both women and men to discuss FGC openly is a major challenge for the future. The issue remains very taboo and there is a fear that talks on the issue would be airing the country’s dirty laundry in public.

It is believed by many in Oman that FGC occurs for religious reasons but preliminary studies have shown that people do not know for what specific religious reasons.  Moreover, people still practice FGC because they think it’s healthy and they’re afraid of what will happen to their daughters if they aren’t cut.

Getting the Omani government to discuss FGC is another challenge. The Ministry of Health has made a start by discussing it but this needs to be put into action.

Major languages:

Arabic (official)

English

Baluchi

Major religions:

Islam (official) 85.9%

Christian 6.5%

Hindu 5.5%

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