Source : The Guardian
Sunday 30 November 2014
With the first prosecutions under way in the UK and Guinea-Bissau , an increased focus on strengthening the law in Kenya , and a rare conviction in Uganda , positive moves are being made in several countries to implement laws that ban female genital mutilation (FGM).
Against this increasingly optimistic backdrop, the verdict on 20 November in the case of Sohair al-Bata’a , a 13-year-old Egyptian girl who died after undergoing FGM in the Daqahliyah governorate, north-east of Cairo, was particularly disappointing. Both Sohair’s father and the doctor who carried out the mutilation were acquitted, despite the fact that a medical examiner’s report, endorsed by Egypt’s general attorney, confirmed that FGM had taken place. The judge, who was appointed to the case only recently, seemed to discount this unbiased expert evidence and instead acquitted both men. The verdict was not announced in court, but merely recorded in a ledger .
Egypt’s battle to eliminate FGM has been a tumultuous one. In 2006, its two most senior Islamic clerics stated that FGM has no basis in religion. The following year, Egyptian medical professionals were banned from performing FGM after a 12-year-old girl died.
It was this ban, backed by legislation introduced in 2008, that was used to prosecute Sohair’s father and the doctor in a very similar scenario, six years later. Even with good laws in place, justice can continue to be evasive. If laws are not implemented properly and the judicial system is not transparent, the perpetrators in cases such as Sohair’s will continue to go unpunished.
According to Unicef , more than 27.2 million Egyptian women and girls have been affected by FGM. This represents 91% of the female population, the biggest number for any one nationality. Of an estimated 100-140 million women affected by FGM globally, at least one in five is from Egypt. While figures for younger women and adolescent girls seem to be decreasing slowly, this abuse continues to have broad national support from various quarters, including professionals who are supposed to have a duty of care.
Egypt also leads the world in terms of one of the biggest risks to the global anti-FGM movement, that of the increasing trend towards its medicalisation, which fundamentally contradicts WHO guidelines. Incredibly, a 2012 academic document by Egyptian doctor Mohamed Kandil in F1000 Research, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, suggests there is “insufficient evidence to support the claims” that FGM type I is harmful when performed by medical practitioners.
Unicef suggests that 77% of FGM in Egypt is carried out by doctors or other medical professionals – an increase of more than 100% since 1995. Despite leading the way globally in terms of a decrease in prevalence, Kenya is also experiencing an increase in the medicalisation of FGM. Indonesia has yet to fully ban it, although the country recently revoked its 2010 regulation, which allowed medical professionals to legally perform FGM. In the same year, Equality Nowsucceeded in reversing the decision made by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to endorse Type IV FGM, when it suggested changes in the law to allow for a “ritual nick” or pricking of the clitoral skin.
All efforts to permit or make FGM supposedly “safer” conceal the severe violence it represents and hide its lifelong and life-threatening physical, emotional and psychological consequences. Sohair’s death tragically highlights FGM as an extreme violation of the human rights of girls and women with serious health risks, regardless of whether it is performed within or outside of the medical establishment.
Without strong messages from the Egyptian government, such as proper implementation of the law and swift punishment for the perpetrators, FGM may become more acceptable, with women’s rights increasingly subordinated at all levels. Part of the solution is ensuring that healthcare providers are given comprehensive education and training on the health and human rights implications of FGM.
Equality Now is currently working with local lawyers at the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance to ensure that Sohair gets justice – justice for one girl, but in the hope it sets a precedent to help ensure that countless others are protected. Egypt needs to decide which direction it would now like to take.
(Beirut) – Egyptian authorities need to take clear action to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) following the country’s first trial on the crime ending in acquittals.
A trial this month in Egypt centered on the death of a 13-year-old girl in 2013. The doctor who cut the girl and the girl’s father who took her to the doctor were acquitted on November 20. The case highlights the need for serious steps by authorities to end FGM including implementation of the law and a national strategy to raise awareness of the harms of FGM. The public prosecution recently filed an appeal against the acquittal.
“Female genital mutilation is banned in Egypt but the practice continues possibly because there is a lack of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions,” said Rothna Begum, researcher on women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa division.
FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical purposes. It interferes with the natural functioning of the body and has no known health benefits. The practice may lead to a variety of immediate and long-term health consequences, including severe pain, shock, infection, complications during childbirth affecting both the mother and the child being born, as well as long-term gynecological problems.
On June 6, 2013, 13-year-old Sohair al-Batea died following an FGM procedure after she had an allergic reaction to penicillin. Dr. Raslan Fadl Hallawa acknowledged performing the procedure, but claimed it was for medical purposes and not FGM. He and Sohair al-Batea’s father came under investigation. The public prosecutor initiated criminal proceedings in March 2014 charging the doctor with manslaughter for causing the girl’s death by negligence, running a medical facility that does not meet medical requirements to treat patients, endangering the girl’s life, and committing the practice of female genital mutilation. The prosecutor charged her father with endangering her life and forcing her to undergo FGM.
Since the law banning FGM was amended in 2008, this single case of prosecution has resulted in a trial. Activists have reported that lack of prosecutions are due to local officials considering FGM to be a private family issue rather than dealing with the crime of FGM itself.
Egyptian authorities need to take steps to ensure effective implementation of the law criminalizing the harmful procedure by ensuring that there is adequate investigation and prosecution of those who carry out the FGM procedure, Human Rights Watch said. The government needs to initiate a national strategy to end FGM by raising awareness of the mental and physical harm it does, and of the law banning it.
“This case was an important test of Egypt’s legislation criminalizing female genital mutilation,” Begum said. “It is clearly not enough to just put a law on the statute books; it must be enforced.”
According to the memorandum of the public prosecutor on the case dated March 10, 2014, as available onShorouk news website , the evidence included a testimony from health inspector Ahmed Mosa, which described that the girl’s genitalia was cut and that she died from shock or circulatory failure. An initial post-mortem forensic report found that the doctor had not tested her for hypersensitivity to the penicillin that was used in the procedure which led to her death. An additional report from an expert committee headed by a senior forensic doctor stated that they could not confirm whether this was a FGM procedure or another medical procedure, as the doctor has claimed. The memorandum also includes investigation notes such as the father’s testimony. He initially said he took his daughter for the FGM procedure, but then changed his testimony to claim she was experiencing abdominal pain. The public prosecutor concluded from the reports and its investigation that the procedure carried out was female genital mutilation.
The initial charge of manslaughter by negligence was settled out of court, with the doctor paying the family 5,001 Egyptian pounds (around US$700). On November 20, 2014, the minor offenses court in Agga, in Dakahlia governorate north east of Cairo, found the two men not guilty on the remaining charges. Human Rights Watch was not able to obtain the full verdict including the reasoning behind the acquittal.
According to a lawyer from the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, the public prosecutor filed an appeal with the minor offenses appeal court in Mansoura, capital of the Dakahlia governorate.
In 2008, after the death of an 11-year-old girl following a FGM procedure, the Child Rights Law No. 126 amended the Penal Code to provide that anyone who causes injury through performing female genital mutilation can be sentenced to imprisonment for three months to two years, or fined between 1000-5000 Egyptian pounds (approximately US$700). The Sohair al-Batea case was the first case to go to trial on charges relating to female genital mutilation.
“Egypt may have a law on the books, but the lack of meaningful prosecutions or any convictions for such a widespread problem sends a message that it is okay to carry out FGM,” said Rothna Begum. “The authorities must send a clear message to the police, prosecution and the courts on investigating and prosecuting those who perform FGM.”
Female genital mutilation is a widespread practice in Egypt. A 2008 demographic and health survey found that 91 percent of girls and women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM. The study also suggested that the practice may be on the decline, with rates among women under age 25 at around 80 percent, compared with women aged 25-49, among whom between 94 and 96 percent were subject to female genital mutilation.
In 2007, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, who is the highest Islamic authority, issued a fatwa (religious edict) that FGM was forbidden in Islam. However, some clerics continue to openly advocate the practice. The 2008 survey found that just under half of all women aged 15-49 believed that FGM was a religious requirement and just over half felt that the practice should continue. Whatever the reasons cited, FGM is an act of violence that is irreversible and without medical justification, and which has a lasting negative impact on girls’ and women’s physical, mental, and sexual health.
“Despite some signs that FGM might be decreasing, it still remains a widespread problem,” Begum said. “If Egypt wants to show it is serious about ending FGM, it must put in place a national strategy in addition to its law, with the inclusion of religious and community leaders, healthcare professionals, teachers, and civil society to raise awareness on the harms of FGM.”
The national strategy should include support for victims of FGM including medical and psychosocial assistance and it should establish official mechanisms to monitor the progress of eradication efforts.
Egypt is required under international human rights treaties to hold private actors accountable for violence against women, including FGM. As recently as November 4 , 2014, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which monitor implementation of children’s rights and women’s rights treaties that Egypt has ratified, issued a joint recommendation calling on states to eliminate harmful practices and formulate holistic strategies to end FGM.
By Ignacio Artaza (November 27, 2014) (Daily News Egypt)
I recently visited the village of Beir Anbar in the district of Koft, Qena governorate, and listened to the powerful statement this community is conveying to the rest of the country to put an end to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The whole village, from young schoolchildren to village elders, came together to denounce FGM as “violent”, “wrong” and “harmful”.
Even today, many girls and young women are subjected to genital mutilation in the name of ‘tradition’. According to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, at least 91% of Egyptian women between the ages of 15-49 have undergone genital mutilation. The people of Beir Anbar made it clear that Egyptian girls and women deserve a new tradition – a tradition of protecting and safeguarding their rights.
But the joint efforts of families, community activists, authorities, development agencies and media are gradually making a difference to phase out this traditional harmful practice. Let us be clear: there is no justification – moral, religious, cultural, medical or otherwise for this practice. ‘Cutting’ demeans, dehumanises and injures. It is a human rights violation that must be actively opposed until it is ended.
As we gathered inside the community centre, a group of school girls came forward and delivered the following message: ”I am born perfect with my body whole. Why do you want to cut us, and take away the rights that God gave us? What you are doing to us is a crime that takes away our childhood and our innocence.” The audience – boys, parents, teachers, and local authorities- stood up and cheered in support.
One particular case concerning FGM that has attracted much interest in Egypt over the past year is that of Soheir El-Batei.
While some facts may be disputed, this much is clear: Soheir was a 13-year-old schoolgirl. She was a child. And she was a victim of female genital mutilation. She died in June last year as a result of complications caused by an illegal, medically unnecessary ‘traditional’ procedure.
On the very day I was visiting this village, the Misdemeanor Court in the district of Aga, Daqahleya governorate, dismissed the case.
Legislation outlawing female genital mutilation in Egypt has been in place for more than half a decade. But that legislation must be strengthened to ensure that it fully protects the rights of women and girls, and to ensure that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are brought to justice.
The United Nations Development Programme has been combating FGM since 2003. Presently, UNDP is supporting the National FGM Abandonment Programme in partnership with the National Population Council (NPC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), local authorities and civil society organisations, and is implemented thanks to the generous contributions of the European Union, and the Governments of Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany.
Ignacio Artaza is Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme in Egypt
Source: Daily news Egypt
25 November 2014
As we commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let us mobilize for the 16 days of activism from now until Human Rights Day on 10 December. Join the global effort to “Orange YOUR Neighbourhood” as part of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women.
Together, we must continue to make our voices heard.
No matter who you are or where you are, it is time to speak out, to break the silence and to take a stand. We can no longer allow one in three women to be subjected to physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.
It is time to end the gender inequality and the impunity that allow this violence and human suffering to continue on such a widespread scale. Governments have a responsibility to uphold human rights for all, to ensure safety and justice.
From domestic abuse to sexual violence, from cyber-bullying to human trafficking, from early, child and forced marriage to female genital mutilation, it is time to end violence against women and girls in all its forms.
Today, there is no country in the world, not one, where women and girls live free from violence.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, will continue to stand strong for the right of every woman and girl to live free of violence, coercion and discrimination. We will stand strong for sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality.
UNFPA will continue to support efforts worldwide from husbands’ schools in Niger to the Padara movement in Zimbabwe, to training judges in the Amak community in Nicaragua, to working with community and religious leaders, and engaging men and boys to end violence and discrimination against women and girls.
We are working with UN Women and other partners to develop global standards for essential services for survivors of gender-based violence. These services address psychosocial, legal and housing needs and the devastating health consequences many survivors face, which range from forced and unwanted pregnancies to unsafe and forced abortions to life-long physical injuries and mental trauma.
The impacts on communities and societies at large are far-reaching, and are further magnified in crisis situations.
From Syria to Iraq to South Sudanto the Central African Republic to other nations ravaged by conflict or natural disaster, UNFPA is providing reproductive health services, including maternal health care and family planning. We are working to ensure that the health and safety of women, including safe delivery and safety from violence, are prioritized in humanitarian operations.
The global community is united in its position that ending violence against women must be prioritized in the post-2015 international development agenda.
UNFPA will keep pushing for a world free of violence for all women and girls. We will not stop until this violence is no longer tolerated, consigned to the shameful chapter of history where it belongs.
Source: UNFPA Egypt