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Egypt: New Law Enhancing the Penalties for FGM Approved by Parliament

(Sept. 14, 2016) On August 31, 2016, the Egyptian People’s Assembly approved the amendment of article 242 (bis) of the Penal Code. Article 242 (bis) criminalizes the act of female genital mutilation (FGM). (People’s Assembly Strengthens the Penalty Against Female Genital Mutilation, AL YOUM7 (Aug. 31, 2016) (in Arabic); Law No. 58 of 1937 Promulgating the Penal Code (Oct. 15, 1937).)

Previously, article 242 (bis) covered FGM as a misdemeanor. It imposed the penalty of imprisonment for between three months and two years on practitioners who commit the offense. (Id.; Law No. 126 of 2008, amending Law No. 58 of 1937, 24 AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYYA (Duplicate) 2 (June 15, 2008).)

Under the new amendment, individuals committing this crime will be punished with a period of imprisonment of between five and seven years. (People’s Assembly Strengthens the Penalty Against Female Genital Mutilation, supra.) The article also punishes, with a penalty of imprisonment for between one and three years, any individuals who escort the victims of such crimes to the perpetrators. Furthermore, the amendment punishes the crime with up to 15 years’ imprisonment if the act of FGM leads to the death of the victim or a “permanent deformity.” (Id.)

Reactions to the Law

The Minister of Health applauded the passage of the amendment by the Parliament. He stated that the old provision failed to deter the perpetrators from committing the crime. The Minister also claimed that the rate of FGM cases in Egypt reached 91% among girls under 18 years of age. He added that the FGM procedure is often performed by people who are not licensed medical practitioners. (New Bill Increases Jail Terms as FGM Becomes Felony in Egypt, AL-AHRAM (Aug. 28, 2016).) A study conducted by the Ministry of Health reportedly indicates that FGM is more common in rural communities than in cities. The study noted that 96% of girls in rural communities had undergone FGM, as opposed to 85% in urban areas. (Id.)

In spite of the recent modification of article 242 (bis), female activists have doubts concerning the enforcement of the new law and whether it will lead to the apprehension of those who commit FGM. Dalia Abdel Hamid, the women’s rights officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), commented on the recent amendment by saying that many families believe that FGM is a traditional norm and does not cause the victims any harm. (Nourhan Mohamed, No Guarantee that FGM Law Amendments Will Discourage Practice: Researcher, DAILY NEWS (Aug. 30, 2016).)

Many families of young girls believe that FGM is common in Egypt because it is justified by religious principles. However, the Egyptian Dar al-Ifta, the official religious institution responsible for issuing religious decrees regulating Muslim Egyptians’ daily life, dismissed the idea that FGM is a religious act. It stated that FGM is a cultural phenomenon and is not religious. It also warned against following unverified claims about the procedure from non- religious scholars. Finally, it asserted that FGM has physical and psychological ramifications that have led to its prohibition.  (Id.)