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The Fifth Statement of the Anti- FGM Task Force: What after the recent amendments to the law?

The Fifth Statement of the Anti- FGM Task Force: What after the recent amendments to the law?

Press Release

14th June, 2021

In celebration of the National Day of Combating FGM (June 14th, 2021), the Anti-FGM Task Force has initiated a discussion around the latest amendments to the penal code, which includes Article (242) bis and (242) (a) bis on criminalizing FGM. The discussion revolved around the new amendments, such as: expanding, professional and social responsibility by closing any institutions that conduct FGM on its premises, eliminating the clause on “medical necessity” from the article as an excuse for FGM, refuting any legality added to female circumcision by deleting the reference to Article 61 of the Penal Code, and finally, including penalties for those in charge of advocating and promoting FGM even if it does not result in action.

After a rounded presentation of the legal, research, and social aspects of combating FGM in Egypt in the past years, participants presented a number of recommendations showing that increasing penalties for FGM alone is not enough to end this harmful deeply rooted practice in Egyptian society. The recommendations dealt with the experiences of the anti-FGM task forces in relation to the reality of applying the law, as well as the data and information related to FGM in Egypt, the civil role in law enforcement, and the awareness campaigns on the harms of FGM and its legal and health implications. That being said, the anti-FGM task forces share the following recommendations to take into consideration when designing and implementing the next National FGM Strategy:

Law enforcement:

  • Expanding the legal, professional, and social responsibilities to include the medical institutions that were mentioned in the last amendments, reflects the reality of the FGM practice in Egypt, especially that it involves a level of medical inter-staff complicity within those institutions’ managements. However, this amendment creates an outlet to evade the administrative and managerial responsibility, as the law mandates that the direct manager should be aware of the commission of FGM within the facility, which is difficult to prove.
  • The task force’s previous recommendations, namely to stop the implementation of punishment for the parents and to replace it with a non-custodial one in the event of their cooperation in the investigation or if they offer to help in the case of a deterioration in the girl’s health condition, were not taken into consideration in the development of the latest amendments. Failure to recognize the role of the parents in getting those involved in FGM out of legal custody, results in their collusion with the accused medical personnel and unifying a narrative to justify the violation, for example by passing it off as surgery to “remove skin tags”.
  • In order to ensure the implementation of the law; there needs to be a society-level discussion to convince individuals and families of the dangers of FGM on women’s and girls’ health, safety, and dignity, in order to prepare Egyptian society to deal with the issue as well as ending it by collective responsibility to report it and combat it. It is about time to establish the anti-discrimination commission stipulated in the Egyptian constitution in Article 53 in 2014.
  • Research shows that one of the determinant factors for reporting FGM is time. Some FGM-related legal cases can take up to 2 years in legal deliberations. Therefore, it is necessary to establish specific courts to deal with cases of violence against women to ensure prompt justice.
  • In order to incentivize and increase the number of reports through a hotline to The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, as well as The National Council for Women, there needs to exist a reliable guarantee that witnesses and reporters of FGM cases will be protected before, during, and after investigations.
  • To activate the legal amendments as a tool to combat and end FGM, it is important to encourage women to file complaints pursuant to Article 99, which establishes that the right to litigation for offenses related to assaulting the sanctity of the body does not lapse with a statute of limitations.

General Knowledge:

Female genital mutilation is not a new phenomenon; it is a deeply rooted practice in Egyptian reality. It’s a practice nurtured by the general attitude towards women in society, inside the family, and in the workforce. Tolerating that inferior view of women allows for FGM to prevail as one of the forms of violence against women and girls throughout their lives. Therefore, combating FGM should also include a number of structural adjustments that enhance women’s social stature generally and gender equality more specifically.

  • The hyper-fixation on the law as the only representation of the government’s stance on the issue of FGM is not enough. In light of criminalizing the advocacy and the promotion of FGM in the latest legal amendments, it is recommended to expand this general strategy by refusing to accept individual viewpoints that encourage violent behavior against women and girls in the media, educational institutions, and law enforcement organizations.
  • The different cultures and attitudes regarding FGM in Egypt need to be considered to make sure that those differences are reflected in transferring successful trials to other countries. That can be done by localizing experiences and lessons learned in line with local challenges.
  • To unify the efforts on combating FGM, awareness messages and campaigns need to be diverse to accommodate those on the receiving end of those messages. They need to be customized to address the different concerns in order to influence the receptors of those messages. It is possible to depend on the reports filed through the hotline of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and the National Council for Women as contexts that inspire the content of those awareness messages and campaigns.
  • Related to the aforementioned point, it is important to separate efforts spent to combat FGM from Islamic and Christian parties that demonstrate the severity and seriousness of the act itself.
  • When developing awareness campaigns against FGM, it’s critical to take into account regional variances in subcultures, in addition to individual differences in education and other characteristics.
  • A significant political opportunity to stop FGM is comprehensive sexual education. Despite the evidence of recent studies, showing that many young people accept the practice of FGM, it is typical to target national awareness programs on the downsides of this dangerous practice only for age groups (married individuals). The ideas of gender equality should be instilled in younger generations through thorough sexual education, which will have an effect on a number of other factors such as FGM, unintended pregnancies, sexual violence, and other associated problems.
  • In light of the realization of the preceding step, encouraging new generations to file complaints, support and protect their peers, and end the cycle of violence against girls and women by educating, professionally training, and strengthening male and female teachers as a primary source of information for adolescent girls and boys.
  • It is important to close the gap between official and unofficial messages that raise awareness of reproductive health. The lack of a unified and clear discourse on the status of women in the family and society is noticeable. Official and civil approaches must clearly favor improving the status of women in the family and society by making them equal to the status of men.
  • Information and Technology:

Both formal and informal anti-FGM efforts lack large and representative databases of Egypt’s demographic and health needs. The databases that offer insights into other cultures’ attitudes on reproductive and sexual health, and specifically female genital mutilation, have not been updated since the most recent Demographic Health Survey published in Egypt in 2014. The gap between drafting and implementing social solutions to combat FGM is further amplified by the lack of data on the outcomes and learned lessons of previous projects and programs in the past that aimed to combat FGM.

Building on all the above and in light of the vital influence that data and information have on drafting public policy, we recommend the following:

  • Clear and accurate indicators must be set for each program that comes within the efforts to combat FGM.
  • Official and non-official organizations and bodies must communicate the results of their baseline surveys regularly to allow further studies to build on them and to facilitate passing this knowledge.
  • Collaboration with all FGM stakeholders is necessary in the process of drafting and implementing public policy solutions to ensure the passing on of field experiences.
  • To ensure the effective implementation of the mentioned policies, all national programs that aim to combat FGM need to be revised and evaluated in order to extract the successful and unsuccessful aspects of the policy.

Civil Society:

The roles of civil society organizations have changed from monitoring the achievement of strategic goals of policies at the national level to an outlet for public awareness activities. In light of the diminishing spheres of influence of civil society organizations, we recommend the following:

  • Placing us (civil society organizations) at the center of drafting the upcoming FGM strategy is vital.
  • Boost awareness-raising efforts for all ages, from girls to grandmothers, in order to change the negative mindset that encourages the transmission of FGM between generations.
  • Decentralizing the development and implementation of national strategies; small-scale interventions are ineffective.
  • Promoting the sharing of experiences between the state’s official institutions and organizations from civil society, working closely with those in charge of effective awareness campaigns on social media, and drawing on the knowledge gained from former anti-sexual harassment campaigns.

“Citizens are equal before the law, and they are equal in rights, freedoms, and public duties. There is no discrimination between them on the basis of religion, creed, gender, origin, race, color, language, disability, social level, political or geographical affiliation, or for any other reason. Discrimination and incitement to hatred is a crime punishable by law. The state is committed to taking the necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination, and the law regulates the establishment of an independent commission for this purpose.”