First Statement by The Anti-FGM Task Force
Statement from the Task Force to Combat FGM: Courts’ treatment of cases confirms civil society’s reservations about legal changes and enforcement of the law.
The Task Force to Combat FGM (female genital mutilation) is saddened and dismayed by the experience of the 12-year-old Y.A., who was admitted to the Sohag University Hospital last week for treatment of severe vaginal bleeding after being subjected to the crime of FGM. The procedure was performed by a public health clinic’s doctor in a village in the governorate of Sohag, according to media statements from the girl’s father.
The FGM Task Force underscores the need for accountability for the doctor implicated in this crime, a staff doctor at the local public health clinic in the child’s village, and is shocked by the Girga Summary Court’s decision from Wednesday to release both the doctor and the father after the Public Prosecution remanded them to custody pending investigation. The release of the doctor sends a tacit message of encouragement to all other doctors who perform FGM and allows him the opportunity to flee the jurisdiction and avoid legal accountability, as we have seen in similar cases. The Task Force urges all state institutions and relevant national instruments to assume their full responsibility for countering FGM crimes, which remain widespread without tangible interventions to stop them. The lack of these interventions encourages such crimes to go unreported and they are reported only when they cause the death or serious injury of the victim due to complications from the procedure.
This most recent incident confirms the fears of numerous women’s groups and human rights organizations about the continued risk to the lives and health of girls, the law’s inadequate protection, and the short-sightedness of a statutory philosophy based on stricter penalties while disregarding the social tolerance of female circumcision. We reiterate that disregard for the social aspects of the practice leads to continued laxity in the enforcement of the law and impunity for perpetrators of this crime since many people charged with implementing and enforcing this law are part of the community and are convinced of the utility and importance of the practice.
In this regard, the undersigned organizations condemn the extremely lax efforts made to advance the National Strategy Against FGM (2016–2020). Two years into the strategy, the basic gaps it identifies have yet to be addressed, including the failure to list FGM/C as an unprofessional practice in medical school curricula and low reporting rates.
While the number of FGM cases before the courts has seen a relative increase, it nevertheless represents only the tip of the iceberg. The number of cases bears no relation to the frequency of the practice. It is inconceivable that the courts every year hear just a handful of cases ten years after the criminalization of FGM, and even after the 2016 amendments to the statute criminalizing the practice.
In closing, the FGM Task Force reiterates the importance of the state demonstrating genuine political will to combat FGM through a broad-based, youth-centered campaign involving numerous civic and political forces and civil society organizations.
In particular, the Task Force makes the following demands:
- Educate police forces, prosecutors, and judges to deal with FGM cases and increase awareness about the relevant legal and rights issues.
- Punish any doctor with proven involvement in this crime, expand criminal accountability to include the medical facility and its administration, and ensure the Sohag doctor’s accountability
- Immediately implement policies for the training and qualification of doctors by incorporating material in the curricula of medical colleges defining FGM crimes and their adverse impacts.
- Adopt mechanisms to encourage citizens to report FGM crimes, such as stricter oversight of medical facilities and training for health inspectors.
Open a broader space for civil society organizations to participate in the development and implementation of policies to combat FGM.