Egypt laws against female genital mutiliation do not criminalise the procedure as medical malpractice, a new report has found.
Although FGM is illegal in Egypt, in recent years, there has been a significant shift towards health professionals performing the practice, the report by research organisation 28 Too Many said on Wednesday.
However, there is currently no national legislation in place in Egypt specifying that the performance of FGM by a health professional is medical malpractice.
Dr Ann-Marie Wilson, executive director of 28 Too Many said: “Several young girls have died whilst undergoing medicalised FGM in Egypt and yet the laws here still do not explicitly address medical malpractice and the performance of FGM by health professionals.”
With an FGM prevalence of 87.2 percent among all women aged 15-49 in a population of nearly 95 million, Egypt has the greatest number of women and girls who have experienced FGM of any country in the world.
Currently Egyptian law prohibits FGM being performed on those aged under-18, without “medical justification”, though does not specify what justification this would constitute. It is also against the law to request FGM, or failure to report FGM.
Since 2008 there has been a significant shift from traditional practitioners to medical professionals, it said with 78.4 percent of incidences of FGM being medicalised.
The report also highlights that laws against FGM in Egypt have not been adequately implemented and enforced to date, and in the few cases that have been brought to court, the sentences have failed to reflect the severity of the crime.
In one well-publicised case following the death of a 13-year-old, the doctor convicted was sentenced to two years for manslaughter and three months’ imprisonment for FGM.
Egypt has an official strategy – The National FGM Abandonment Strategy 2016-2020 – for eradicating FGM. Its goals do include addressing “inconsistencies within the legal culture” and enforcing existing laws against FGM, 28 Too Many said.
In addition, in May 2018, the Egyptian Dar al-Iftaa (Centre for Islamic Legal Research) made a significant ruling that FGM is religiously forbidden and that the practice is not required under Islamic laws and should be banned, as it mutilates the most sensitive organ in the female body.
In December 2016, Egyptian authorities introduced tougher penalties for those convicted of performing FGM, increasing the sentencing range from three months-two years to between five and seven years.
If the procedure leads to permanent disability or death, the perpetrators could be jailed for up to 15 years.
28 Too Many has called for strengthening the law around medicalised FGM to “clearly define and strictly punish any member of the medical profession who performs, attempts to perform or assists FGM in any location or premises, whatever the age of the woman or child”, its report concluded.
FGM is the partial or full removal of the external sex organs for no medical purposes – ostensibly to control women’s sexuality. The procedure is common in some parts of the African continent, and practiced by both Muslims and Christians in Egypt.
Categorised by the World Health Organisation as a violation of human rights, it can cause lifelong pain, including extreme discomfort during sexual intercourse, serious complications during childbirth and psychological trauma.