3 February 2013

Egypt: Court Strikes Down Challenge to FGM Criminalization

Photo: Supplied
Thirteen-year-old Sohair al-Bata'a died during a genital cutting operation in Egypt. The trial of her doctor and father ended in their acquittal.

Egypt's Constitutional Court decided on Sunday to strike down a legal challenge against article 242 of the criminal code that criminalizes female genital mutilation (FGM).

A fundamentalist cleric, shiekh Youssef el-Badri, had appealed against the said article, challenging its constitutionality.

Human rights lawyer and head of the center for Egyptian economic and social rights Khaled Ali told Aswat Masriya on Sunday that he came forward to the court to insist upon keeping the law that forbids the act.

The plaintiff had challenged a decision of 2007 by the health minister that forbids surgical operations that include cutting of women's reproductive systems whether at governmental hospitals or private ones.

The court said that FGM would only be allowed in cases of a "medical necessity" and a certificate would have to be produced in such cases from the gynecological department of a hospital.

Egypt's Azhar - most prestigious Islamic body - had more than once condemned the act, describing it as a crime against women.

Article 242 of Egypt's criminal code states that anyone who conducts such surgeries will be subject to a minimum of three months and a maximum of two years punishment.

The Egyptian Center for Child Rights issued a statement welcoming the court's decision.

Head of the center, Hani Helal, said that this verdict confirms the right of female children to protection from all harmful traditional practices such as FGM. He stressed upon the need to prosecute the perpetrators of such practices.

The World Health Organization recognizes FGM as a violation of human rights of women and children, as it violates a person's right to health, security, and physical integrity.

Meanwhile, some ultraconservative religious figures endorse the practice, claiming that is sunnah (acts and words ascribed to the prophet Muhammad), which makes it a religious duty.

More than 90 percent of Egyptian girls are circumcised, according to official estimates.

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