Cases of botched female genital mutilation (FGM) at the hands of western trained medical doctors leading to death continue to be reported in Egypt. The latest case resulted in the death of a 13-year-old girl -- Soheir al-Batea -- who died on 6 June in the Daqahliya Governorate (north-east of Cairo). The news released by the Egypt Independent and Gulf News websites was followed by recent reports indicating that the doctor who performed the illegal operation was released pending investigations. The doctor’s release shows that, yet again, these grave offences are not being treated with the seriousness that they deserve, and that justice continues to elude the victims.
Together with other human rights groups around the world, Equality Now supports the World Health Organization’s position that aside from the serious health risks associated with FGM, the practice “constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women” and performance by medical personnel legitimizes the practice and further institutionalizes the procedure as medical personnel often hold power, authority, and respect in society.
Egypt has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world with a national prevalence of FGM at 91 per cent of women between the ages of 15-49 according to the latest survey released in 2008. According to the WHO, 72 percent of the FGM in Egypt is performed by doctors in private clinics who supplement their income from these illegal mutilations (with charges per child ranging from £14 to £150 per child).
The death of Soheir comes at a time when the world is marking the Day of the African Child – marked internationally on June 16.
“It is unfortunate that as we mark the Day of the African Child whose focus this year is on eliminating harmful social and cultural practices affecting children, Egyptian children are dying from an outlawed practice while the government fails to take firm action against perpetrators.” says Faiza Mohamed, Equality Now’s Nairobi Office Director.
Equality Now’s local partner CEWLA (Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance) expresses concern that FGM may become more acceptable in the post Arab Spring Egypt, with Islamist MPs pushing for decriminalization of the practice in Parliament.
"It is important, during this time, to continue to focus on women's issues that are discarded by government officials across various policies and not considered a priority since the January 25 (2011) revolution, despite the prominent role played by women in countries touched by the Arab spring. This has led to the loss of women's rights at all levels, especially under the current critical transitional period," says Mrs. Seham Aly, a Women's Rights program officer at CEWLA foundation.
Equality Now and CEWLA join in the call by United Nations Specialized Agencies to enforce the legislation on FGM which came into force in 2008 by prosecuting the doctor who performed this operation and as well as the parents who colluded in the offence. We call on the government to support and enhance community education to prevent and eliminate FGM in Egypt.
Founded in 1992, Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world in the areas of Discrimination in Law, Sexual Violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Trafficking. Equality Now works to ensure that governments enact and enforce laws and policies that uphold the rights of women and girls.
CENTRE FOR EGYPTIAN WOMEN’S LEGAL ASSISTANCE (CEWLA):
Founded in 1995, CEWLA is an Egyptian women’s human rights NGO. CEWLA campaigns for equality of women, with an emphasis on legal equity and the amendment of discriminatory laws.
Equality Now Africa Regional Office
Nairobi - KENYA
The Centre for Egyptian Women’ Legal Assistance (CEWLA)
Noha Ali - 1, ElHigaz Tower,
El-Mohandes Abdel HadyRady St. Ard El-Luaa, Giza
Tel (+202)3731 65 85