An Egyptian appeals court convicted and sentenced a doctor today for performing female genital mutilation (FGM) that lead to a 13-year-old girl’s death. This is the first time a doctor has been convicted in Egypt of this crime. Although Egypt criminalized FGM in 2008, it remains widespread in the region. Egypt has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world.
“I am really happy,” said lawyer Reda el-Danbouki in an interview with The Associated Press. “Here is a judge that understands.” el-Danbouki also called the verdict “a triumph for women.”
FGM is widely regarded as a human rights violation. The procedure, which involves the partial or total removal of external genitalia, is designed to decrease women’s sexual desire and is seen in many cultures as essential for a women’s suitability for marriage. The practice is known to increase the risk of HIV transmission as well as infant and maternal mortality rates.
A 2013 report by UNICEF showed FGM in decline worldwide but estimated 30 million women and girls still are at risk. The report covered data from over 20 years in 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East where the practice is still prevalent, including Somalia, Guinea, Djbouti, and Egypt – where nine out of ten girls still are subjected to FGM. According to the report, about 125 million women in the world have undergone FGM.
FGM was made illegal in the US as recently as 1996. Renewed efforts to curb FGM in the US came to fruition last summer, when the Obama administration set up a preliminary working group for FGM prevention and action. Its first step is to examine the extent of FGM in the US and explore ways to eliminate the practice.