Suez governor Ahmed Al-Hitamy shut down a private hospital in the city after a young girl died on Sunday while undergoing a female genital mutilation (FGM) procedure, which is illegal according to Egyptian law.
Mayar Mohamed, 17, went to the hospital with her twin sister to undergo the surgery. Her sister survived, but Mayar suffered from complications during the procedure, which caused severe bleeding that eventually led to her death.
During initial investigations, the family of the two girls told the Health Ministry inspector in Suez and a police officer that they went to the hospital to remove a sebaceous cyst on her uterus.
However, the health inspector told state-run Akhbar newspaper that after the autopsy, it was discovered that the injuries the girl sustained after the operation had nothing to do with removing a cyst. The case was referred to the forensic authority to formally identify the cause of death.
Randa Fakhr El-Din, director of the NGOs coalition against FGM, told Daily News Egypt that the number of FGM procedures being carried out is staggering. “There needs to be an update to all the studies made on FGM cases, especially in border cities, where the prevalence rates are rising,” she said.
According to Fakhr El-Din, who provides comprehensive support for girls with potential exposure to FGM, there are many hospitals that perform such surgeries namely, Sayeda Zeinab hospital and medical centres belonging to Al-Jameaya Al-Shareya Islamic NGO, but they all lurk in the shadows.
“The main problem is that we are not fully able to monitor those places as the families are not cooperative in telling us about the places and opt to be discreet about it for the sake of the doctors performing the operations,” Fakhr El-Din said.
The death of Mayar has sparked widespread criticism. The United Nations said in a statement on Monday it is deeply saddened by the tragic incident.
“There is still a long way to go to eliminate this harmful practice which violates women’s and girls’ rights and has long lasting physical and psychological implications,” the statement read.
Further, the UN called on health professionals to take a strong stand against the medicalisation of FGM.
Egypt was among the countries that witnessed a fast decline in the prevalence of FGM rates from 1987 to 2015. According to a UNICEF report, it ranked sixth among countries that practice FGM worldwide, with an overall percentage of 85% among girls and women aged between 15 to 49 years old.
A government survey released earlier in August 2015 showed that 61% of girls between 15 to 17 years of age underwent FGM during 2014, compared to 74% during 2008.
On 7 February, the international day to combat FGM, Egypt’s Health Ministry announced it would launch a coalition of doctors called “Doctors against FGM”, based on the fact that 82% of the FGM procedures in Egypt are performed by trained medical personnel. The coalition would also spread awareness among families who perform it on their daughters.