On 28 December 1997, the highest Egyptian administrative court overturned a lower court ruling which had struck down a government directive banning the practice by health workers of female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision (FC). The ban was instituted in July 1996 by Health Minister Ismail Sallam and subsequently challenged in court by a group of plaintiffs including several doctors and Islamist leaders who advocate the practice of FGM. The high court upheld the Minister's ban, noting that FGM is not sanctioned by Islam and that the practice is subject to the provisions of the Penal Code. The court concluded:
With this ruling everybody is banned from performing FC, even with the proven consent of the girl or her parents, except in cases of medical necessity, which must be determined by the director of the gynecology department in one of the hospitals. Otherwise, all those who do not comply will be subjected to criminal and administrative punishments.
Egypt has long been a battleground for progressive and conservative forces in relation to the campaign to stop FGM. This court decision finally confirms the ban on FGM and is not subject to appeal. The ban on FGM and the commitment it represents by the Minister of the Health greatly support efforts of the campaign in Egypt to stop FGM. The Cairo Family Planning Association initiated the campaign against FGM in Egypt in 1980, by organizing a ground-breaking seminar entitled "Bodily Mutilation of Young Females" which was held in Cairo. Since 1994, an increasing number of non-governmental organizations, including human rights and feminist organizations, have joined together in their efforts to eradicate FGM in Egypt through the national FGM Task Force.
No further action is necessary, but you may wish to send a letter of congratulations to the Minister of Health on the court decision upholding his ban on FGM. Thank him for his efforts to stop the practice of FGM in Egypt and urge him to continue his collaboration with the FGM Task Force, to ensure enforcement of the ban and promotion of public awareness of the harmful effects of FGM. Letters should be addressed to:
His Excellency Dr. Ismail Sallam
Minister of Health
Magles El Shaab Street