Today an Egyptian court convicted two people of carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM). These are the first convictions for FGM since Egypt criminalized the practice in 2008 but two convictions in seven years aren’t enough in a country with an endemic FGM problem, and Egyptian authorities must do more to investigate and prosecute those who carry out the procedure.
In 2013, 13-year-old Sohair al-Batea died following an FGM procedure, yet last November a court acquitted Dr. Raslan Fadl Hallawa and Sohair’s father. The appeals court on Monday reversed that verdict, convicted the doctor for manslaughter, and sentenced him to two years of imprisonment, plus three months for practicing FGM. The father, who brought Sohair to the doctor, received a three-month suspended sentence for taking his daughter to undergo FGM. The doctor's clinic will be closed for one year by court order.
FGM involves the partial or total removal of female genitalia for non-medical purposes. It interferes with the natural functioning of the body and has no known health benefits. The practice may lead to a variety of health consequences, including severe pain, shock, infection, complications during childbirth, as well as long-term gynaecological problems.
Female genital mutilation is widespread in Egypt. A 2008 demographic and health survey found that 91 percent of girls and women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM.
This was the first such case to go to trial since the law banning FGM was passed. Child Rights Law No. 126 provides that anyone who causes injury through performing female genital mutilation can be imprisoned from three months to two years, or fined between 1,000-5,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately US$130-670).
Official television adverts to raise awareness of the dangers of FGM are a positive step, but the government needs a comprehensive national strategy to end FGM that includes religious and community leaders, healthcare professionals, teachers, and civil society. Unless the law is rigorously applied, there will be more Sohairs.