Egypt seeks tougher punishment for female genital mutilation


(Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights / Tradition, Culture, Religion)

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CAIRO, Aug 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Women’s rights activists hailed the Egyptian government on Monday for advocating increased prison sentences for perpetrators of female genital mutilation (FGM) but warned that a new law could shroud the practice in greater secrecy.

Egypt’s cabinet on Sunday approved a bill, which must be passed by parliament to become law, imposing jail terms of up to seven years for people who perform FGM and up to three years for those who escort a girl or woman to undergo the practice.

It is currently punishable in Egypt by between three months and two years in prison under a 2008 law, which was enacted after an 11-year-old girl died following an FGM procedure.

The drive for tougher sentences follows the recent death of a 17-year-old girl of complications during an FGM operation in a private hospital in Suez province.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a Cairo-based rights group, welcomed the bill but said it may not deter people from performing FGM and could drive it further underground.

“It will also decrease the rate of reporting FGM cases, as imposing a punishment on whoever escorts a girl to have the operation will make families fear reporting cases,” Dalia Abd El-Hameed of the EIPR told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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