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Egypt: Draft Law Enhancing Criminal Penalties against Female Genital Mutilation Approved

(Feb. 24, 2021) On January 20, 2021, the Egyptian cabinet approved a draft law amending the Egyptian penal code to strengthen penalties against the crime of female genital mutilation (FGM). This legal measure comes one year after a female teenager died in southern Egypt while undergoing a genital mutilation procedure.

Female genital mutilation has been criminalized in Egypt since 2008. However, the first conviction for performing an FGM procedure did not take place until January 2015,  seven years after the practice was criminalized.

The current amendment constitutes the second time over the past six years that the Egyptian authorities have enhanced penalties against the crime of FGM. The previous amendment to the penal code concerning FGM took place in 2016. It imposed a term of imprisonment of five to seven years on perpetrators, whether they are medical practitioners or not.

In its effort to combat the practice of FGM, the Egyptian authorities arrested a father and a retired nurse on February 2, 2021, for carrying out an FGM procedure on a 15-year-old girl. The FGM procedure took place at home and the teenage girl had severe bleeding. The father had to transport her to a nearby hospital. The doctors at the hospital then reported the incident to the police.

Content of the Draft Law

The new amendment will focus on article 242 (bis) of the Egyptian Penal Code. The main purpose of the draft law is to deter perpetrators of FGM by expanding the previous criminal penalty of up to seven years’ imprisonment to imprisonment for up to 20 years.

Under the draft law, any person who engages in FGM by removing, modifying, or mutilating a part of a female’s genitals is punishable by a term of five to seven years in prison. Furthermore, doctors and nurses who engage in FGM are punishable by 10 years of imprisonment.

If a victim dies from undergoing FGM, the perpetrator is punishable by 10 years of imprisonment if the perpetrator is not a medical practitioner. If a doctor or a nurse engages in an FGM procedure that results in the death of the female, the doctor or nurse is punishable by 10 to 20 years of imprisonment.

In addition to the criminal penalties, the draft law requires that the private medical clinic where the FGM procedure took place be closed for up to five years. In addition, it mandates that an ad be placed in two widely circulated newspapers and on websites determined by the court in order to publicize the name of the clinic and the reasons for its closure. Further, it authorizes the court to suspend the medical professionals who took part in the procedure for up to five years.

Reaction to the Draft Law

Women’s rights activists, such as Reda El Danbouki, the executive director of the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, have supported the draft law. El Danbouki has also stated that the enforcement of the new law is important in eliminating the practice of FGM. He has asserted that both the judiciary and law enforcement personal must take this crime seriously.

Maya Morsy, president of the National Council for Women, also endorsed the bill and urged the parliament to pass it as soon as possible.