Member of parliament Ahmed Al-Tahawy apologised at the Sunday evening session of the House of Representatives for his controversial comments last week defending female genital mutilation (FMG), which prompted criticism and condemnation from women rights originations and activists.
During the evening session, Al-Tahawy said that he apologised to all Egyptian girls if his statements offended them, and confirmed to women’s organisations that he is interested in the dignity and prestige of women.
He further demanded that media outlets correct what they circulated about his previous comments, confirming his full respect for women.
The MP said that after reviewing the fatwa issued on 2 June 2016 by Dar Al-Ifta, which after several studies confirmed the illegality of FMG, he found that ”FMG is a very controversial issue as there are several disagreements over it”.
He also stressed that the Grand Mufti is the only responsible party to legislate and legalise such an issue.
Member of the National Council for Women, Amr Hassan, who is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, said that a meeting will be held in the parliament on Tuesday to discuss harsher punishment for FMG and to stress the necessity of avoiding comments on such sensitive issues without being fully familiar with its consequences.
Hassan commented on Al-Tahawy’s statements saying that MPs’ statements are very significant and impact people and that such statements could really distort people’s thoughts. The doctor urged that FMG is not a part of Islam, pointing to Saudi Arabia where it is not practised despite the restrictions imposed on women there.
Following Al-Tahawy’s apology, MP Amenah Nossier said that FMG is not accepted in any way, whether legitimately, psychologically, or socially, noting that it is a social custom not related to Islam, but practised in African countries
Al-Tahawy, who is a member of the Health Committee, previously stated that “leaving a female without FMG is something wrong” during a parliamentary discussion on 12 June about implementing harsher punishments for FMG practice.
Following his controversial remark, the council commented on this statements saying that it was an attempt to undo the social and legal reforms that support the rights of women and children in Egypt implemented after the January 25 Revolution, the 30 June Uprising, and the 2014 Constitution.
The council also demanded investigations into the MP’s controversial comments.
On 10 July, the Minister of Health and Population, Ahmed Emad El-Din Rady, met with several officials to consider severe deterrents and stricter penalties on doctors and nurses who practice FGM.
The meeting coincided with the court order to release the mother of an FGM victim in Suez for the second time. The prosecution, however, appealed the decision. The Suez court had issued a release order for the defendant in June, but the prosecution appealed that decision as well. The appeal was accepted and the detention of the defendant continued.
Moreover, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) released a position paper in June suggesting legal means to activate laws criminalising FGM, in which it suggested several techniques to make the law more effective.
Late May, Suez governor Ahmed Al-Hitamy shut down a private hospital in the city after a young girl died while undergoing an FGM procedure.
Egypt is among the countries that have witnessed a fast decline in FGM rates from 1987 to 2015. According to a UNICEF report, it ranked sixth among countries that practise FGM worldwide, with an overall percentage of 85% among girls and women aged between 15 to 49 years old.