A young girl died this week after a doctor performed female genital mutilation (FGM) on her in the Assiut province of southern Egypt.
Following the 12-year-old’s death, a public prosecutor ordered that her parents and the doctor be arrested, according to the Associated Press (AP).
“In Egypt, 92 percent of women and girls aged 15-49 have undergone some form of FGM,” the United Nations Fund for Population Activities Egypt (UNFPA) website stated.
The practice involves the cutting or removal of female sexual organs and is used as a misguided preventative measure to keep women from having sex before marriage, according to Breitbart News. While many of the cases occur among Muslim families, FGM is not exclusive to Islam and much more common in Africa than in any other part of the world. Often, the procedure occurs in areas with limited hygiene and a lack of medical supplies, and is done by senior tribal members or other non-medical professionals.
“Female genital mutilation (FGM) is still widespread – but increasingly condemned – throughout much of North and East Africa. However, the recent history of the practice in Egypt presents special challenges for those trying to end it,” the UNFPA site read.
Not only does the procedure hurt the victim physically, but it can also lead to long-term mental health issues. Experts have identified no legitimate medical reason for a woman to ever undergo FGM.
In 2016, Egypt implemented an amended law that made penalties harsher for those who performed the ancient procedure, according to Breitbart News.
“The nation’s health ministry reportedly announced the enactment of the amendment, which increases punishment for FGM to felony charges, with up to 15 years in prison, from a misdemeanor, with a maximum of three years behind bars,” the article stated.
Human rights lawyer Reda el-Danbouki said the law only criminalizes FGM in cases where “there is no medical justification.”
“This clause opens the door to parents as well as physicians to claim that they were not conducting female circumcision but simply removing allegedly discomforting skin growth,” he noted, adding that judges are not convinced FGM is a crime.
“Judges are lenient when it comes to cases entailing violence against women,” Danbouki said.
Friday, managing director of the Tadwein Gender Research Center, Amel Fahmy, commented that unless there is “true criminalization of the practice,” it will continue.
“Many more Egyptian girls will be forced to undergo the procedure, and many of them will die,” Fahmy concluded.