Following Egypt’s first trial on a female genital mutilation case (FGM) ending in acquittals, the authorities need to take serious steps to end the practice, including “implementation of the law and a national strategy to raise awareness of the harms FGM,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Thursday.
The trial centered on a 13-year-old girl, Soheir El-Batei, who died during an FGM procedure in 2013. Both the doctor who cut the girl, and her father were acquitted on 20 November. Public prosecution recently filed an appeal against the court decision.
“Female genital mutilation is banned in Egypt but the practice continues possibly because there is a lack of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions,” said Rothna Begum, researcher on women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa for Human Rights Watch.
FGM involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, it interferes with the body’s natural functioning, and may lead to short and long term health consequences, the group said in their statement.
The practice was banned by the law in 2008, after the death of an 11-year-old girl during the procedure. Since then, this has been the only case resulting in a trial as activists state due to local officials considering FGM a private family issue rather than a crime.
“This case was an important test of Egypt’s legislation criminalising female genital mutilation,” Begum said. “It is clearly not enough to just put a law on the statute books; it must be enforced.”
Egypt has ratified international children’s rights and women’s rights treaties that require it to hold private actors responsible for violence against women and children.