Women launched an online campaign in conjunction with the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on different social media platforms, in which they documented the traumatic experience of the practice, stressing that they will never forget it.
Women and activists narrated stories of the practice, stating what they have faced following it, as well as explaining the resulting physical and psychological pain their bodies suffered in the long term.
Twenty-seven-year-old activist Chimaa Tantawy wrote an opinion piece titled “Centre of Sexuality” on news website Masreiat, explaining how she underwent the practice and how she kept, for around 15 years, suffering pain in her body and facing psychological issues.
Tantawy was not the only one to narrate her story; other women in their mid-twenties also explained how, even after many years following the operation, they still struggle and suffer. Recently, efforts of women organisations to address the issue encouraged more women to publically admit that they have faced the practice.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) also released a statement in conjunction with the day, noting that 2016 saw stricter punishment against FGM: imprisonment ranging from five to seven year, more in case of death or permanent disability.
The statement also referred to legal actions taken against perpetrators of one of the most prominent cases of FGM in recent months, where the girl’s family members received a one-year prison sentence, while the nurse received five.
Seventeen-year-old Mayar Mohamed died after undergoing FGM by a female doctor who escaped following the girl’s death. This case stirred a huge uproar and outcries for more legal action to be taken against the practice.
Member of the National Council for Women, Amr Hassan, who is also an obstetrician and gynecologist, said that following the death of the 17 year old, a movement was established to amend the anti-female genital mutilation law by changing the punishment from a misdemeanour to a crime. He added that a new law was also presented to the parliament to ratify the amendment.
Since June 2008, articles 241 and 242 of Egypt’s penal code have criminalised any act of FGM, by sentencing those carrying out the action to between three months and two years in prison. Those found guilty may instead be fined between EGP 1,000 and 5,000.
Hassan saw that the legal action was an achievement, but believes that raising awareness about FGM practices still has a long way to go. The legislative amendment was made by the parliamentary members; previously, there was a law within the Children Act Law of 2008 criminalising the practice.
The National Council for Women published statistics issued by the Ministry of Health that showed how the rates of FGM reduced among girls aged 15-17 from 77% in 2005 to 61% in 2014.
A number of statements released over the past year from various entities stated long-term symptoms of the practice, including distortion of the girl’s body, as well as complications while giving birth or during pregnancy.
According to a UNICEF report from 2016, Egypt ranked sixth among countries that practice FGM worldwide, with 85% of girls and women between the age of 15 and 49 having undergone the procedure.