Investigative police arrested Doctor Raslan Fadl on Saturday, after a verdict of a two-year imprisonment over a botched Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) procedure that left a young girl dead.
The FGM victim, 13-year-old Soheir Al-Batea, passed away during an FGM operation in June 2013. The cause of death was recorded by a forensic medicine authority report at a clinic located in the rural town of Aga in Daqahleya governorate.
The doctor fled after the court issued a verdict of two years in prison and the payment of a fine of EGP 500. The court also issued a postponed verdict of three months imprisonment for the girl’s father.
Since its occurrence, the case has been going back and forth between courts, after attempts by the girl’s family to change the cause of death. The father was not aware that he would be tried as well after submitting the complaint against the doctor.
A few months later, the father and the doctor attempted to change the cause of death by stating during the investigations that the girl died of an anaesthetic overdose. The case was almost terminated after the family and the doctor attempted to reconcile.
However, the forensic authority report which was issued right after the girl’s death proved otherwise. It stated that the girl died due to an FGM procedure, in which about 1cm of her genital area was cauterized.
The case was referred to the appeals court for further review, where the court decided on Saturday to ratify the arrest of the doctor and rejected the three-month verdict against the father.
Randa Fakhr El-Din, director of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) coalition against FGM, told Daily News Egypt the verdict of two years imprisonment is completely inadequate for the crime of FGM, yet having this verdict ratified after the defendant had walked free is a good step.
According to Fakhr El-Din, many families opt out of complaining against the harms done to their daughters from FGM procedures out of fear of persecution, which is something NGOs advocating against FGM are trying to address in a new bill. There are also ongoing attempts to strengthen the penalty for FGM procedures.
Another 17-year-old girl died during an FGM procedure in a Suez hospital in May. The hospital shut down, but the doctor was not yet arrested and is reportedly outside Egypt.
FGM has been a common procedure in Egypt linked to deeply-rooted societal customs and traditions. However, it has witnessed a major decline over the past few years.
In 2014, Egypt witnessed a significant decline in the prevalence of FGM procedures. According to a national survey conducted, only 48% of girls underwent FGM that year, compared to 78% in 2008.