'I killed a girl': FGM undeterred by manslaughter conviction

'I killed a girl': FGM undeterred by manslaughter conviction
Human rights organisations are calling for action and law enforcement as Female Genital Mutilation continues to be a common practice in Egypt despite being outlawed in 2008.
4 min read
14 December, 2015
FGM is more prevalent amongst rural and uneducated women [AFP]

In January 2015, international and local human rights organisations in Egypt marked a new victory in their fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) when Dr. Raslan Fadl was sentenced to two years in prison for manslaughter resulting from the procedure.

The doctor was also ordered to pay a fine of EGP 500 ($63), and the case became the first of its kind in Egypt.

However, the unprecedented verdict was never implemented. According to a report by VICE News, the convicted doctor is free and continues to practice medicine at a public hospital.

He also continues to perform the procedure at his private clinic on the outskirts of the city of Mansoura in the Nile Delta, even though it was supposedly closed following a court order.

Fadl was brought to trial after performing an FGM procedure that killed 13 year-old Soheir al-Batea in June 2013.

'I killed a girl'

An undercover reporter from VICE News visited Fadl at his private clinic and claimed to have a niece he would like to have circumcised.

The convicted doctor said he had no problem performing the procedure, adding that he was suing the government to legalise FGM.

He convinced [the father] that his daughter was dead anyway, so it won't make any difference.

- Reda al-Danbouki

Fadl also said that he had been sentenced to two years in prison, before the reporter asked about the reason behind the conviction.

"I killed a girl," the doctor said.

"I have to pay EGP 150,000 ($19,000)."

According to Reda al-Danbouki, a lawyer at the Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance, the law allows doctors to pay the families in order to avoid prosecution.

"He convinced [the father] that his daughter was dead anyway, so it won't make any difference," said Danbouki, who led the legal battle against Fadl.

Call for action

Less than a month after the girl's death, human rights organisation Equality Now, which documents violence and discrimination against women, issued a call for action to enforce the anti-FGM law and ensure that Fadl is "thoroughly investigated and held accountable for all crimes he is found to have committed".

The human rights organisation also called the Egyptian government to live up to its domestic and international obligations by ensuring that health care providers are given comprehensive education and training on the health and human rights implications of FGM and refrain from performing any form of the practice.

In an update on 3 December 2015, Equality Now confirmed that Egyptian authorities had not arrested Fadl yet, despite assurance by the chief of police in November.

The organisation also called on the Egyptian police to immediately arrest the doctor and permanently close down his clinic, and on the doctors' Syndicate to revoke his medical licence.

An ongoing practice

Despite being banned in 1996 and criminalised in 2008 with prison sentences ranging from three months to two years and a fine of up to EGP 5,000 ($638), FGM remains a widespread practice in Egypt.

In October 2015, a study issued by the Egyptian health ministry revealed that almost 9 in 10 women aged 15-49 had undergone the procedure.

Almost 9 in 10 women aged 15-49 had undergone the procedure.

- Egyptian health ministry

The study found that the practice was more prevalent amongst rural and uneducated women, while lower rates were observed amongst women living in urban areas and those with higher levels of wealth and education.

A 2013 UNICEF report found that Egypt had the world's highest number of FGM cases.

By this time, a total of 27.2 million girls and women had undergone the procedure in Egypt, and 77 percent of the cases were performed by medical profession, according to the report.

In 2007, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa issued a fatwa condemning FGM, while the Azhar Supreme Council for Islamic Research explained in a statement that the practice had no basis in the core Islamic Sharia or any of its partial provisions.

In September 2012, the Egyptian gynecologists and obstetricians union declared that FGM was not a medical procedure, and that it was not included in any medical curriculum.

Many Egyptian parents believe that FGM guarantees purity and chastity by quelling their girls' sexual desires, making them more attractive for marriage, as they claim.