Egypt has increased the penalty for practising female genital mutilation to a sentence of between three and 15 years in jail, although campaigners say this will have little impact.
Successful convictions of doctors or others found to be performing the procedure are extremely rare, despite it being illegal in Egypt since 2008.
Raslan Fadl, the first doctor to be sentenced in Egypt, was recently found to have walked free after serving the minimum three-month sentence. The nature of the law allowed Fadl to negotiate with the family of 13-year-old Sohair al-Bata’a, who died after he performed FGM on her, to serve the lowest possible sentence.
On Sunday, Egypt’s cabinet proposed an amendment to the law banning FGM, which would classify it as a crime rather than a misdemeanour. Practitioners could now receive up to 15 years in jail if a victim dies, while anyone who accompanies girls to be cut could face between one and three years in prison.
This new law won’t necessarily stop private reconciliation, said lawyer Reda el Danbouki, who fought the Bata’a case. If anything, it imposes a sentence on the families or whoever escorts the girl to the operation – the family will not want to say they took the girl to undergo FGM, or else they will face prison themselves. It is common for deaths caused by FGM to be deliberately misreported by both practitioners and families, further obscuring the possibility of cracking down on those who carry it out.
Given that the new law is making the prison sentence up to 15 years, it will make the family more keen to lie about the nature of the operation, Danbouki continued. If the family say that the girl was taken to have another kind of operation, which she died from, it will then be classified as involuntary manslaughter – meaning there is room for reconciliation. As such, campaigners say the new law would not have changed the outcome of the Bata’a case.
Punishments for practitioners and families are often limited to cases where girls die after undergoing FGM, such as the forthcoming case of 17-year-old Mayar Mohamed Mousa in Suez. Mousa died from the procedure at a private hospital; the majority of FGM procedures are performed by medical professionals – 82% according to UNFPA.
Rights groups say the lack of state-based monitoring combined with application of existing laws is the bigger problem. This is the state’s responsibility and we should always be aware of that, said Dalia Abdel-Hamid of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, for example, what medical education tells doctors about banning female circumcision.
Abdel-Hamid added that the Egyptian Medical Syndicate could also do more to crack down on members who perform FGM: They could have suspended so many doctors.
Suad Abu-Dayyeh, of Equality Now, pointed to the 27.2 million women in Egypt affected by FGM – making Egypt one of the countries most affected by the issue. The new law should help efforts to end FGM in Egypt, but it may not make a major difference unless police and judges follow through and actually make arrests of perpetrators.
News Source TheGuardianNews