Egypt’s National Council for Women calls for Friday sermons to address FGM

The President of Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW), Maya Morsi, has called on Egypt’s Endowments Ministry to unify Friday sermons at mosques across the country to raise awareness about female genital mutilation (FGM), amid international outcry after the death of a 12-year-old girl  who underwent the procedure last week in Assiut.

Morsi, in a letter to Endowments Minister Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa on Sunday, said the sermons should educate the public about the potentially disastrous impacts of FGM, also referred to as female circumcision, and ensure that they understand that the practice is not associated with Islam.

She also called on the public and civil society institutions to fight back against what she described as a “reprehensible” practice, and reiterated the need to change a culture that she says aims to “hurt” and “humiliate” women.

In related news, a delegation from the Ministry of Social Solidarity visited the family of the young girl who died in Assiut on Sunday, following the release of her parents and the detention of the doctor who performed the operation for 15 days, pending further investigation into the case.

The delegation provided psychological support to the girl’s family, and the awareness and psychological support team of the Ministry, in cooperation with the Governorate’s Social Solidarity Directorate, held awareness meetings for citizens in the area to explain the consequences of FGM and the legal penalties imposed upon families of girls subjected to the procedure.

A committee from the Assiut Health Directorate has closed the clinic belonging to the doctor arrested in the incident, which, according to the head of Assiut Health Directorate Mohamad Hafiz, fell below health and medical standards for performing surgical operations.

This information was filed in a report prepared by the committee and sent to Egypt’s Public Prosecution.

The United Nations in Egypt on Friday issued a statement condemning the girl’s death last Thursday, when police in Egypt’s Assiut received information from the father of the victim that a gynecologist and owner of a local clinic had attempted to perform FGM on his 12-year-old daughter, who later died as a result inside the clinic.

“We are outraged that such senseless deaths still occur in 2020, despite progress made to eradicate this violent practice in terms of law reform, awareness raising, as well as direct engagement with local communities and religious leaders,” the UN in Egypt.

The doctor and father were arrested the same day, and the clinic was placed under security watch. However, the prosecutor ordered the release of the victim’s parents and her aunt on Saturday.

In 2008, Egypt’s Parliament approved a law banning FGM, a practice widespread in Egypt and other parts of Africa and believed by many to be a way to control female sexuality. The move was opposed by conservative voices at the time.

A 2015 government survey found that 87% percent of all Egyptian women between 15 and 49 years of age have been subjected to genital cutting, despite efforts by the Egyptian government to curb the practice, according to a report from The Associated Press.

In December 2016, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced two doctors and the mother of a 17-year-old girl who died after undergoing FGM to one year suspended sentence each, with the verdict drawing a wave of criticism from women’s rights activists, according to the same report.

That same year, Parliament adopted amendments to the anti-FGM law, redefining FGM from a misdemeanor to a felony, but some activists say the law contains loopholes that allow the cutting of female genital organs in cases where there are so-called “medical” justifications for the operation, which has helped the practice to continue.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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