Knowledge and perspectives of female genital cutting among the local religious leaders in Erbil governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan region
KeywordsFemale genital cutting
Gynecology and obstetrics
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AbstractAbstract Background Religious leaders are one of the key actors in the issue of female genital cutting (FGC) due to the influential position they have in the community and the frequent association of FGC with the religion. This study aimed to assess the knowledge and perspectives of the local religious leaders in Erbil governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan Region about different aspects of FGC. Methods In-depth interviews were conducted with a sample of 29 local religious leaders. A semi-structured questionnaire was used that included questions about their knowledge, understanding, and perspectives on different aspects of FGC such as the reasons for practicing it, their contact and communication with the community regarding the practice and perspectives about banning the practice by law. Results Participants believed that FGC is useful for reducing or regulating the sexual desire of women to prevent adultery and engagement in pre and extramarital sexual relations and to enhance hygiene of women. They indicated that there is no any risk in doing FGC if there is no excessive cut. Most participants indicated that FGC is attributed to the religion and some considered it a tradition mixed with the religion. People rarely ask the advice of the religious leaders regarding FGC, but they frequently complain about the effects of the practice. Participants did not support having a law to ban FGC either because they thought it would be against the religion’s advice on FGC or it will not work. Conclusions The local religious leaders lack adequate knowledge about different aspects of FGC particularly the health consequences. There are different and disputing viewpoints about the reasons for practicing FGC, and there is poor support for having a law banning the practice. There is an essential need for enhancing the knowledge of the local religious leaders regarding FGC and its adverse effects on the women’s health.