An Egyptian doctor has been convicted on appeal of performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on a 13 year old girl, who later died from her injuries. Originally the judge acquitted Raslan Fadl, a medical doctor and an Islamic cleric, but the prosecution team appealed and won the case.
This is a landmark case in Egypt as it is the first time a doctor has been found guilty and sentenced for performing FGM.
FGM is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. Some of the immediate complications include fatal bleeding, anaemia and acute urinary retention. Longer term complications vary depending on the type of FGM performed, but can include obstruction to the menstrual flow, painful urination, infections, incontinence, pain during sexual intercourse and infertility.
Sohair el-Batea, a gifted 13- year old girl from a Nile Delta village, died in June 2013 after the procedure was performed on her.
Sohail’s father received a three month prison sentence for forcing her to undergo the procedure.
In the original verdict, despite evidence from medical reports provided by Egypt’s forensic authority that proved that Sohair has been subjected to FGM, the judge in the case ignored the reports, according to Reda el-Danbouki, one of the lawyers involved in the case. Similarly, the judge ignored a decision by the health ministry ordering the doctor’s clinic to be shut down for violating medical practices.
Instead, the judge in the town of Aga, where the case was heard, merely wrote an acquittal verdict in the court ledger, giving no reason for his decision. The verdict was not announced in the courtroom.
Reda Eldanbouki, one of the lawyers handling the case had the following to say about the sentence and the landmark precedent set by the verdict:
1) Did you get any death threats during the case?
"I received a lot of threats. Today I got more than 6 phone calls from unknown numbers threatening to kill and kidnap me and my family."
2) How many women contacted you to complain about FGM?
"Now lots of girls are calling me so I can save them from circumcision and mothers are requesting that I help convince their husbands and their mothers-in-law to refuse circumcision."
3) What do you think about the appeals court judge and did you have any problems or criticisms of the previous judge?
"The appeals court judge is an understanding, educated and enlightened man and his verdict was according to the documents and the papers. The previous judge didn’t care much and he was influenced by his Islamic education, without any understanding. He was doing things according to the sharia and the law together but he didn’t quite comprehend the concept of violence against women."
4) Are you going to continue to represent women in cases of circumcision?
"Yes, I shall continue to fight for the rights of every woman, and I will fight circumcision and oppose it."
5) What is your message to the Egyptian nation, to the Arab world and to the world as a whole?
"The message that I want to deliver to the world is to protect your girls, let them go with their heads held high. Circumcision has negative affects on the physical and mental health of the woman. The honor of the daughter is not only in the pelvic region. Everything about circumcision only damages. It’s a bad custom and performing it is not God's work. Leave your daughters to be healthy and whole."
To learn more about female genital mutilation and the many ways that it harms women, see Clarion Project's Factsheet: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)