June 5, 2009
Egyptian members of Parliament passed a new law that bans female circumcision. The new bill also changed the legal minimum age for marriage to 18 years-old for both genders.
The laws passed on Sunday impose jail time and large fines if caught practicing female circumcision. A maximum jail term of two years or a fine between $200 and $1,000 can be handed down by a judge.
The only means allowed for the process is in cases of “medical necessity.” International rights groups welcomed the decision, saying it is a step in the right direction for Egypt.
The laws are enforceable immediately.
Some members of Parliament argued that the bill goes against Islamic principles and this is another attempt by the “west” to impose “its beliefs on our culture.” However, most Islamic scholars welcomed the decision, saying it was long overdue to outlaw a practice that needed to be ended.
Some accounts argue that as many as 97 percent of Egyptian women have been circumcised. The practice is widespread in Upper Egyptian villages, and can often lead to death, infection and psychological trauma, Amnesty International has reported.
Previously Egyptian girls were allowed to legally marry at the age of 16.