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Nazra for Feminist Studies

Nazra for Feminist Studies is a group that aims to build an Egyptian feminist movement, believing that feminism and gender are political and social issues affecting freedom and development in all societies. Nazra aims to mainstream these values in both public and private spheres.

Egypt launches first prosecution for female genital mutilation after girl dies

March 26, 2014

Patrick Kingsley in Cairo - Friday 14th March 2014


Dr Raslan Fadl and father of the 13-year-old girl who died during cutting are the first to be prosecuted in Egypt for practice of FGM.

In a landmark case, Dr Raslan Fadl is the first doctor to be prosecuted for FGM in Egypt, where the practice was banned in 2008, but is still widely accepted and carried out by many doctors in private.

Sohair al-Bata'a died in Fadl's care in June 2013, and her family admitted that she had been victim to an FGM operation carried out at their request.

The case was initially dropped after an official medical report claimed that Sohair had been treated for genital warts, and that she died from an allergic reaction to penicillin. But after a campaign by local rights groups and the international organisation Equality Now, as well as an investigation by Egypt's state-run National Population Council (NPC), the country's chief prosecutor agreed to reopen the case – leading to this week's seminal prosecution of both Fadl and Sohair's father.

"It is a very important case," said Hala Youssef, head of the NPC, which had pushed for the case to be reopened. "It's the first time that somebody in Egypt will be prosecuted for this crime, and it should be a lesson for every clinician. The law is there, and it will be implemented."

According to Unicef, 91% of married Egyptian women aged between 15 and 49 have been subjected to FGM, 72% of them by doctors. Unicef research suggests that support for the practice is gradually falling: 63% of women in the same age bracket supported it in 2008, compared with 82% in 1995.

But according to research, FGM still has high support in areas with a lower standard of education, where proponents claim mutilation makes women less likely to commit adultery.

Families living near where Sohair died have not been put off the practice, says Reda Maarouf, a local lawyer involved in the case; they simply go to other doctors.

Sohair's family are reported to oppose her father's prosecution. "It's a cultural problem, not religious," said Vivian Foad, an official who led the NPC's investigation. "Both Muslims and Christians do it. They believe it protects a woman's chastity."

Some Islamic fundamentalists claim FGM is a religious duty, but it is not nearly as widespread in most other majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East. Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Equality Now's regional representative, said: "It's very much rooted in Egypt, but in other Arab countries – in Jordan, in Palestine, in Syria – we don't have it."

There are four main methods of committing FGM, according to theWorld Health Organisation, and Abu-Dayyeh said the practice of removing a girl's clitoris and labia was probably the most common in Egypt.

"It's a very painful procedure and I don't know why they do it. It's the worst one," said Abu-Dayyeh, who visited Sohair's grave in Mansoura, northern Egypt, as part of Equality Now's campaign. "Women will really not feel any pleasure when having sex with their husband. It's criminal."

Foad hopes Egypt's interim government will be more proactive about FGM than the administration it replaced after Mohamed Morsi's overthrow last year. Officially, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood claimed they opposed FGM, but prominent members and allies of the group expressed support for it. "People are entitled to do what suits them," said Azza al-Garf, a female MP from the Brotherhood's political arm, in 2012. Another ultra-conservative MP, Nasser al-Shaker – a member of a Salafi party that was then an ally of the Brotherhood – called for legalisation of FGM, and said it had a religious mandate.

Two years on, Egypt's leadership has been criticised internationally for other human rights abuses, but Foad hopes it will be more progressive than its predecessors on FGM. "Under Morsi, they didn't create a conducive atmosphere through the media, and through education – not only for FGM but all women's issues. Now the government is responding positively, and the media is responding positively."

Abu-Dayyeh said Fadl's prosecution was just the start. The case would count for little unless the doctor was jailed and an anti-FGM awareness campaign reached the country's poorest districts, she said.

"Now you need much more work. And it has to be done far away from Cairo – in the [rural areas] where the practice is very widespread."

Additional reporting by Manu Abdo

FGM in Egypt: Control over Female Sexuality

November 4, 2013

Egypt is the only country in North Africa where the practise of female genital mutilation remains widespread – despite an official ban and many public information campaigns for women. Anna Kölling reports from Cairo

According to estimates, over 90 per cent of all Egyptian women of childbearing age are affected by genital mutilation. The scale of this practice first became apparent in 1994 with a study conducted on population development and health. Activists have been fighting against female circumcision for decades and, after the popular uprising in early 2011, women's rights once again became a prominent topic in the media. Although women and men have fought side by side on the streets, the rights of women are nevertheless becoming increasingly jeopardised. Ultra-conservative groups, for example, are calling for the lifting of the ban on female circumcision, which was enacted into law in 2008. 

Egypt protests: Nearly 100 women sexually assaulted, raped in Cairo

July 3, 2013

Shocking reports have emerged from anti-harassment factions of nearly 100 women having fallen victim to “rampant” sexual assaults and in some instances being raped by mobs in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, over four days of Egyptian protests against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Egyptian Constitution Provides Little Protection

January 15, 2013

A secular Egyptian woman outlines the disappointments written into the country's new constitution, passed in late December. Women have had only one legal advance since the revolution: prosecuting sex harassment.

A problematic discourse: who speaks for Arab women?

December 17, 2012

Placed between the First Lady and the Diplomat at the recent Trust Women conference on the 'Arab spring', Ala'a Shehabi argues that in order to foster constructive engagement with the global south, the media, international donors and policy makers should recognise the radical social shifts towards unorganised local groupings and informal collectives

Egypt: The Day after the Referendum

December 13, 2012

It will pass… a draft of a constitution that doesn’t represent Egyptians or their dreams. A draft that did not engage them in the dialogue for change, which passed just two before the referendum, without giving Egyptians the opportunity to discuss it. When the revolution started, Egyptians looked forward to a time where they could evaluate their beliefs and values, discuss them, even change them and reflect it all in a document that recorded the whole process. But this never happened.

Visibility and Visuality: Reframing Gender in the Middle East, North Africa, and Their Diasporas

October, 2012

In conjunction with the Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art, and Society project initiated by the Rutgers Institute for Women and Art, Signs presents a special virtual issue addressing the complexity of women’s lives, livelihoods, and circumstances in North Africa, the Middle East, and their diasporas.

Egypt: Battle Harassment on the Streets

September 20, 2012

Women's groups call on President Morsy to help combat increasing incidents of sexual harassment against women.

Egyptian woman protests in Cairo

Egypt: Woman bids for leadership of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Islamist party

October 6, 2012

For the first time, a woman is running for the leadership of the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful Islamist group. Sabah el-Saqari says she wants to increase female participation in politics and even defends a woman's right to run for president, a stance her organization rejects.

But liberals who fear Islamist rule will set back women's rights say her candidacy is just an attempt by the Brotherhood to improve its image.

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