An Egyptian family took their twin 17-year-old girls to a public hospital in Suez – yes, a governmental hospital and not a butcher’s shop – where a doctor, anesthesiologist and nurse opened their legs, examined their genitalia and began cutting. Mercilessly. The two girls were screaming, one after the other in the same room.
The anti-female genital mutilation law in Egypt law stipulates that genital cutting is a crime against an individual’s honor. However, in Egypt, the reality is very different from the letter of the law.
FGM causes permanent damage to the body from which it is impossible to heal. In addition to all the other horrific side effects, cutting destroys the girl’s sexual appetite, which is her legitimate right to have.
If all this wasn’t horrific enough, one of the girls, Miyyar Mohammed Mousa, died as a result of the surgery. While her sister didn’t lose her life, she did lose the possibility of ever living a normal life.
Subsequently, Egyptian lawmakers introduced a bill to increase punishment for FGM offenders, turning it from a simple crime to a felony. Families would be punished for taking a child for cutting. The punishment would increase from one to three years. Doctors would serve seven years in prison rather than the currently prescribed five.
We hope this heavier punishment will be implemented, but we have seen that for the time being, these new punishments are merely for the sake of the media and not really intended to be meted out.
Police officers paid little attention to the Mousa case even though the doctor fled to Turkey. The girls’ mother and the anesthesiologist were arrested, however.
The judge refused to allow the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness (my organization) to represent the girls in court. With no prosecutor in court, the judge allowed me just five minutes to make the case.
I am of the opinion that the judge sympathized with the accused.
At a subsequent hearing, the doctor was also present. However, the nurse has still to be brought to justice.
When it came to the verdict, the three accused who were in court were found guilty and each sentenced to a year each in jail. The mother was fined $52, the doctor $263.
All of the punishments were then suspended for three years (and will not be given if the offenders are not involved in FGM again).
The nurse was sentenced in absentia to five years but this will be suspended as well if and when she attends court.
We should all stand for minute’s silence for Miyyar. I know she’s suffering in her grave and not in a peaceful rest. I can see the look in her eyes as she curses the police, the prosecution services and the courts who she asks to deal with this corruption and to re-examine this shameful verdict, which won’t act as a deterrent.
Egypt’s “cutting season” takes place in May and June each year prior to the hottest weather that hits the country in July and August.
If you ask anyone why this is the FGM time of year, they tell you a woman’s sexual appetite is at its highest during the summer months.
This is simply illogical. How on earth can this be?
Horrific stories of FGM will continue unabated in Egypt. Every night I hear Miyyar’s message which I must deliver to Egypt and the world:
The surgical procedure of FGM is not considered health-related. IT does not ease an existing pain or preventing future pain. I urge you to leave other girls healthy and whole.
Reda el-Danbouki is a women’s rights lawyer in Egypt who heads the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness in Egypt. He has received death threats because of his pioneering work.
For more information see Clarion Project’s Factsheet: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Clarion Project’s award-winning interfaith movie Honor Diaries follows the stories of nine brave women’s rights activists in their struggle against honor violence and female genital mutilation.
Watch the trailer: