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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Doctor Referred to Criminal Court for Death of 13-year old FGM Victim

Marwa Al-A'sar / Egypt Daily News

CAIRO: The Public Prosecutor referred a physician to the criminal court in Menufiya governorate for the death of a 13-year-old girl during a circumcision procedure, press reports said Friday.

Investigations indicated the child bled to death after undergoing the procedure, the reports added.

The doctor was taken into custody pending trial.

Minister of State for Family and Population Moushira Khattab had filed a complaint at the Public Prosecutor’s office demanding that legal measures against whoever was involved in the incident be taken immediately.

In June 2008, the Egyptian parliament made amendments to the Child Law banning FGM and imposing a sentence of a maximum of two years and a fine of a maximum of $1,000 as a penalty for performing it. The law also punishes practitioners, including parents, with between three months and two years in jail.

According to the investigations, the girl was buried without a burial license to avoid any suspicion about the cause of death.

“If proven guilty, the doctor may face two charges, carrying out an illegal practice and manslaughter,” lawyer at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center Ahmed Seif El-Islam told Daily News Egypt Friday.

In June 2007 the Health Ministry banned doctors and nurses from carrying out the procedure referred to as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), vowing to penalize or even put on trial any physician or nurse performing it.

The announcement followed the death of a 12-year-old girl in Upper Egypt whose death symbolized the brutality of this cultural practice.

Egypt's top Islamic and Christian authorities were quick to voice support for the ban, saying the practice had no basis either in the Quran or in the Bible.

In the 1950s, the government tried to stop midwives from performing the custom, while allowing doctors to do so, fearing that otherwise families who insisted on circumcising their daughters would have the operation carried out under unsanitary conditions.

“The problem of circumcision is that it has to do with ... [Egyptian] customs and traditions. So it is not easy to entirely eradicate the practice at once,” Seif El-Islam noted.

In 1994, due to a public outcry over a CNN television documentary showing circumcision of a nine-year-old-girl by a barber, the Minister of Health at that time decreed that the procedure should be performed one day per week at government facilities but only by trained medical personnel and only if they fail to persuade the parents against it.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), circumcision comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.

Conservative Muslim and Christian Egyptian families have their daughters circumcised as a means to preserve their chastity.

It has been medically proven that the surgical removal of part or of the entire clitoris of a female’s vagina would curb her sexual desire.

However, the impact of FGM depends on the degree of mutilation, the methods used and sanitation. They comprise not only physical, but also severe, lifelong psychological trauma.
Some consequences of FGM include severe pain during the actual procedure, shock as well as possible death due to blood loss. Later consequences include pain and serious difficulties with urination, sexual intercourse, menstruation, childbirth and more.

“I treated many women who were traumatized by the practice. But the psychological impact depends on how the procedure was carried out,” psychologist Mervat El-Amry told Daily News Egypt.

“In general, most women who sought help suffered severe problems in their private relationships with their husbands,” she added.

A 2005 government report found that about 90 percent of Egyptian women had undergone the extremely painful procedure which can severely mutilate the genitals. –Additional reporting by AFP.