Human rights activists have struggled for years to eradicate the brutal practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).
In this exclusive interview, Clarion Project spoke to human rights activist Reda Eldanbouki, a good friend of Clarion and the lawyer who won the first case against FGM in Egypt.
We spoke to Eldanbouki about the latest tragedy in Egypt, the case of 12-year-old girl Nada Hassan Abdel-Maqsoud who bled to death at the end of January after undergoing FGM at a private clinic in Manfalout, Egypt (located close to the city of Assiut).
A doctor, known only as “Ali AA,” 70, who was not a surgeon, carried out the procedure without anesthesia and without a nurse present, according to local prosecutors. He claimed the family brought the girl to him for “plastic surgery” on her genitals. He was arrested for the girl’s death as were the girl’s parents, aunt and uncle who brought her to his clinic for the procedure.
Egypt has one of the highest rates of FGM worldwide despite a 2008 ban on the practice. Additional laws were passed in 2016 against parents who facilitate the cutting and doctors who perform it.
Under the 2016 law, anyone who performs FGM faces between three and 15 years in prison, while anyone accompanying a girl or woman to be cut faces up to three years in prison.
Still, statistics from 2017-18 show that over 87 percent of women and girls in Egypt have undergone FGM.
Clarion Project: What can you tell us about the doctor that performed this procedure?
Reda Eldanbouki: The doctor, aged 70, was convinced that “circumcision” for women was not only legal but beneficial.
Clarion: Why are people in the 21st century still practicing FGM?
Eldanbouki: People truly believe that FGM is a religious act that will protect their girls from becoming sexually deviant.
Clarion: Do you believe that the laws in Egypt are enough to deter families and doctors from practicing FGM?
Eldanbouki: The laws in Egypt are enough, although the 2016 law does not exempt family members from penalty who report a victim. Currently, any family member who reports an FGM is considered complicit, since they didn’t stop it and thus charged, so many cases do not get reported.
The main problem is with the police. They know that there are doctors that perform FGM, yet they don’t arrest them. Also, when there is a verdict against a doctor, there is a foot-dragging by the authorities to carry out the court’s rulings. There is a lot of “looking the other way” when it comes to issues of violence against women in Egypt.
Clarion: Given these societal factors, is there a real way to fight FGM in Egypt?
Eldanbouki: Yes, we could fight this brutal practice if the government would be serious about it. This would mean:
- Dealing with this crime the same way it deals with crimes relating to drugs and terror
- Allocating enough police force to do what is necessary in terms of monitoring and surveillance
- Allowing human rights organizations to take part in the fight against FGM
- Encouraging mosques and churches to employ preachers to speak out against the practice
- Arresting doctors and others who perform it