Yet another victim of Female Genital Cutting : Doctor Should be Prosecuted for Lethal Injury not Accidental Homicide

Press Release

31 May 2016

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights expresses its profound grief at the death of Mayar Mohammed Moussa, who died as a result of female genital cutting (FGC) operation performed by a doctor in Suez on Mayar and her twin sister. The EIPR urges prosecutors to charge the doctor with causing lethal injury rather than the usual charge of accidental homicide.

Presecutors have previously chosen to refer a doctor who caused the death of a young girl by performing FGC to a misdemeanor court on the charge of accidental homicide This was the case of the doctor who caused the death of Suheir al-Batia due to an FGC operation in 2013. In January 2015, the Mansoura Appellate Misdemeanor Court sentenced him to two years imprisonment with labor after his conviction for accidental homicide. According to the victim’s lawyer, the sentence has thus far not been carried out. This kind of accusation does not establish an adequate deterrent, as the penalties are minor and not commensurate with the severity of the crime.

“FGC is a crime, so when a child dies as a result it is not accidental homicide. Accidental homicide applies when a doctor intervenes with a legitimate, legally sanctioned action and the person dies as a result,” said Adel Ramadan, senior lawyer at Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “But when a doctor intentionally causes an injury without a legitimate cause—when the intervention is, in fact, a crime—and it results in death, this is properly the crime of causing a lethal injury.”

Ramadan added, “The public prosecutor issued Circular 20/2008 on the crime of FGC, in which he explains that in cases of death linked to FGC, the offender is to be charged under Article 236 of the Penal Code, which is the crime of causing lethal injury, not accidental homicide.”

In addition, in its current form, the law holds the parents criminally responsible as partners in the crime. It is therefore exceedingly unlikely that family members would report the incident in the event of serious health complications or the death of a child undergoing FGC out of fear of being imprisoned if they report the incident to the police. On the contrary, the law encourages them to cover up the incident, which can often endanger the life and safety of young girls. The EIPR therefore recommends amending the Penal Code to exempt family members – and other partners in crime but not the actual perpetrator from punishment if they report the crime in a timely manner, as is the case for perpetrators in other crimes.

The EIPR also registers its outrageat the statements of Tamer al-Bouhi, the head of the Suez Doctors Syndicate who said that he was waiting for the autopsy report to confirm whether FGC is medically justified in this case or not. As the UNFPA has stated repeatedly, there are absolutely no medical grounds for FGC whatsoever. Al-Bouhi’s statement is particularly grave considering the fact that FGC is being increasingly medicalized in Egypt. According to the most recent Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2014, doctors and trained medical personnel perform about 82 percent of all FGC operations for girls under the age of 19. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights therefore calls upon the head of the Suez Doctors Syndicate to apologize for his statement and to take disciplinary action against doctors involved in such practices.

FGC was criminalized in Egypt in 2008, yet it took five years for the first case to come to court. In most cases, FGC is a consensual operation between a girl’s parents and a doctor. The very few cases in which FGC is reported are typically those in which the girl dies as a result of surgical complications.

“Criminalization alone is not enough,” said Dalia Abd El-Hameed, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights’s gender and women’s rights officer. “The state must focus on changing individuals’ beliefs about FGC, and that cannot be done using only medical and religious discourse. The national campaigns must address the root causes that lead families to circumcise girls in the hope of controlling their sexual desires and improving their marriage chances.”