The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) released a position paper on Thursday, in which it suggested several techniques to make the law that criminalises Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) more effective.
The legal suggestions included in the paper aim to increase the applicability of the current law, and increase the deterrents on the doctors who are involved in the crime. In summary, the paper calls for the exemption of families and partners involved in the crime from sanctions in case they report it, altering the charge from false murder to an injury that resulted in death, and widening the circle of criminal responsibility to include the institutions in which the crimes occur.
As for the first suggestion, the paper read: “The FGM crime occurs on a daily basis and nobody reports it because the law imposes severe sanctions on all involved partners. However, if there is anyone who reported the incident and cooperated with the authorities, this shall be considered in the court, either by giving them reduced sentences or total exemption after being tried.”
The paper stated that this suggested amendment will help families speak out in case of severe injuries that may lead to death, and will encourage them to ask for medical assistance.
Regarding the second suggestion, the paper highlighted that using ‘false murder’ in describing the charge means that the operation is already allowed, but death occurs due to the doctors’ lack of precaution. However, identifying the crime as ‘injury that lead to death’ means that the act itself is not allowed, and usually results in a 15-year sentence. In case of a false murder charge, the punishment may be a fine or a prison sentence.
The third suggestion calls for widening the circle of criminal responsibility to include the medical institutions in which FGM occurs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no difference if the operation is done by doctors or not—the risks are still the same.
The initiative demands holding the managers of such hospitals accountable in case they are aware of the crimes happening in their institutions.
The last suggestion by the initiative was to remove the part of clause 61 of the penal code which stipulates that there is no penalty for anyone who executes a crime that was triggered as a self-protection attempt or the protection of others. The paper stressed that there is no need for this clause to be mentioned in the law that criminalises FGM, as it implies that there are some cases in which it is acceptable to do the operation.
According to a UNICEF report, Egypt ranked sixth among countries that practice FGM worldwide, with an overall percentage of 85% among girls and women aged between 15 and 49 years.