International rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has lauded the Egyptian parliament over the passage of stringent anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) legislation.
According to HRW, the move was a positive step toward eliminating the practice, but further legal and other reforms are needed. Egypt’s parliament late last month passed a law that pegged the highest jail term for FGM offences at 15 years.
The group further tasked the authorities to ensure that laws and policies against FGM are enforced, including holding accountable medical facility directors who allow the practice to take place.
Stricter penalties for female genital mutilation in Egypt now reflect the horrific and potentially deadly consequences of this discriminatory practice
“Stricter penalties for female genital mutilation in Egypt now reflect the horrific and potentially deadly consequences of this discriminatory practice,” Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at HRW said.
Egypt’s new penal code amendments provide for prison terms of five to seven years for those who carry out the practice and up to 15 years if the case results in permanent disability or death. Under the amendments, anyone who escorts girls to undergo female genital mutilation will face one to three years in prison.
However, a 2010 UNICEF report recommended that “the law should take into account the hardship inflicted on families when parents are penalized and should consider the best interests of the child. Preventive and protective measures should be prioritized and punishment should be a last resort.”
FGM is the deliberate mutilation of female genitalia often by the removal or cutting of the labia and clitoris, was banned in Egypt since 2008 but is widely practiced in the country.
In January 2015, an Egyptian doctor was sentenced to two years and three months in prison for practicing a fatal female circumcision on a teenager, the first verdict of its kind since the 2008 ban. But in November 2015, it turned out that he was still at large.
According to a study by the Egyptian Government Demographics Office in 2000, FGM affects 96.6% of Egyptian women, both Muslim and Christian between the ages of 15 to 49 years.
The practice in Egypt has been a tradition from the time of the Pharaohs intended to “cleanse women from sexual temptation.”