Egypt has increased the penalty for practising female genital mutilation to a sentence of between three and 15 years in jail, although campaigners say this will have little impact.
Successful convictions of doctors or others found to be performing the procedure are extremely rare, despite it being illegal in Egypt since 2008.
Raslan Fadl, the first doctor to be sentenced in Egypt, was recently found to have walked free after serving the minimum three-month sentence. The nature of the law allowed Fadl to negotiate with the family of 13-year-old Sohair al-Bata’a, who died after he performed FGM on her, to serve the lowest possible sentence.
On Sunday, Egypt’s cabinet proposed an amendment to the law banning FGM, which would classify it as a crime rather than a misdemeanour. Practitioners could now receive up to 15 years in jail if a victim dies, while anyone who accompanies girls to be cut could face between one and three years in prison.
“This new law won’t necessarily stop private reconciliation,” said lawyer Reda el Danbouki, who fought the Bata’a case. “If anything, it imposes a sentence on the families or whoever escorts the girl to the operation – the family will not want to say they took the girl to undergo FGM, or else they will face prison themselves.” It is common for deaths caused by FGM to be deliberately misreported by both practitioners and families, further obscuring the possibility of cracking down on those who carry it out.
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