Statement from the Task Force to Combat FGM: courts’ treatment of cases confirms civil society’s reservations about legal changes and enforcement of the law
The Task Force to Combat FGM (female genital mutilation) is saddened and dismayed by the experience of 12-year-old Y.A., who was admitted to the Sohag University Hospital last week for treatment of severe vaginal bleeding after being subjected to the crime of FGM. The procedure was performed by the public health clinic’s doctor in a village in the governorate of Sohag, according to media statements from the girl’s father.
The FGM Task Force underscores the need for accountability for the doctor implicated in this crime, a staff doctor at the local public health clinic in the child’s village, and is shocked at the Girga Summary Court’s decision on Wednesday to release both the doctor and the father after the Public Prosecution remanded them to custody pending investigation. The release of the doctor sends a tacit message of encouragement to all other doctors who perform FGM and allows him the opportunity to flee the jurisdiction to avoid legal accountability, as we have seen in similar cases. The task force urges all state institutions and relevant national instruments to assume their full responsibility for countering FGM crimes, which remain widespread without tangible interventions to stop them. The lack of these interventions encourages such crimes to go unreported and they are reported only when they cause the death or serious injury of the victim due to complications from the procedure.
This most recent incident confirms the fears of numerous women’s groups and rights organizations about the continued risk to the lives and health of girls, the inadequacy of the protection provided by the law, and the short-sightedness of a statutory philosophy based on stricter penalties while disregarding the social tolerance of female circumcision. We reiterate that disregard for the social aspects of the practice leads to continued laxity in enforcement of the law and impunity for perpetrators of this crime, since many people charged with implementing and enforcing this law are part of the community and are convinced of the utility and importance of the practice.
In this regard, the undersigned organizations condemn the extremely lax efforts made to advance the National Strategy Against FGM (2016–2020). Two years into the strategy, the basic gaps it identifies have yet to be addressed, including the failure to list FGM/C as an unprofessional practice in medical school curricula and low reporting rates.
While the number of FGM cases before the courts have seen a relative increase, these nevertheless represent only the tip of the iceberg, and the number of cases is in no way commensurate with the frequency of the practice. It is inconceivable that the courts every year hear just a handful of cases ten years after the criminalization of FGM, and even after 2016 amendments to the statute criminalizing the practice.
In closing, the FGM Task Force reiterates the importance of the state demonstrating genuine political will to combat FGM through a broad-based, youth-centered campaign involving numerous civic and political forces and civil society organizations.
In particular, the task force makes the following demands:
- Educate police forces, prosecutors, and judges to deal with FGM cases and increase awareness of the relevant legal and rights issues.
- Punish every doctor with proven involvement in this crime, expand criminal accountability to include the medical facility and its administration, and ensure accountability for the Sohag doctor.
- Immediately implement policies for the training and qualification of doctors by incorporating material in the curricula of medical collages defining FGM crimes and their adverse impacts.
- Adopt mechanisms to encourage citizens to report FGM crimes, such as stricter oversight of medical facilities and training for health inspectors.
- Open a broader space for civil society organizations to participate in the development and implementation of policies to combat FGM.
The Task Force to Combat FGM was established on February 6, 2018 by the following institutions, organizations, and coalitions:
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the New Woman Foundation, the Tadwin Center for Gender Studies, the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, the Love Is Culture Initiative, the Egyptian Women Lawyers Initiative, the Women’s Center for Counseling and Legal Awareness, the Egyptian Coalition for the Rights of the Child, the Egyptian Association for Comprehensive Development, the Salima Institution for Women’s Development, the Federation of Associations Working to Combat Harmful Practices against Women and Children, and the Coalition of Civic Associations against FGM.