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Religion, family structure, and the perpetuation of female genital cutting in Egypt

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2020

Lisa Blaydes
Department of Political Science, Stanford University, Stanford, United States
Melina R. Platas*
Division of Social Science, New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
*Corresponding author. E-mail:
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How are harmful social practices brought to an end? Female genital cutting (FGC) is extremely common among ever-married women in Egypt, but the practice has declined among younger women and girls. While much of the recent literature on abatement of FGC has focused on individual-level determinants of a mother's choice to circumcise her daughters, we focus on meso-level factors, particularly norm change within religious communities and attitude formation within families. We find differential FGC trends across Muslim and Coptic Christian communities as well as an effect of the gender of a woman's first-born child—an exogenous variable in Egypt where pre-natal sex selection is rare—on attitudes toward FGC. The effect of the first-born gender varies by religion and birth cohort, however, suggesting ways in which meso-level factors interact to impact women's attitudes and associated FGC outcomes.

Research Papers
Copyright © Université catholique de Louvain 2020

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