Female Genital Mutilation, Gender Equality, Rights
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FGM Fight turns legal in Egypt

In 2012, Unite to End Violence against Women campaign declared the 25th of every month Orange Day. For two years, individuals, organizations, activists, men, women and girls have been raising their voices to say no to violence.

Women and girls experience violence in war and conflict settings, in their homes and at the hands of strangers. Sexual assault, female genital mutilation, early marriage and forced prostitution are some of the atrocities that girls and women face on a daily basis.

Will the violence stop?

Is there justice for women and girls?

Justice may become a reality for some girls in Egypt. In a tragic, landmark case, Raslan Fadl, a medical practioner, is scheduled to be tried for the death of thirteen year old Sohair al-Bata’a. The death was reportedly the result of an allergic reaction to penicillin. However, the primary procedure she had undergone was female genital mutilation.The existence of the trial is as encouraging as Sohair’s case is heartbreaking.

This is the first time a doctor will be prosecuted for carrying out female genital mutilation in Egypt.

Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is still widely practiced, despite international condemnation. Typically carried out before puberty, sometimes on infant girls, it involves cutting women’s sexual organs (usually with a razor or knife). Female genital excision refers specifically to the removal of the clitoris and labia minora. The practice is not done out of cruelty or as punishment, but is linked to deeply entrenched cultural beliefs which hold that removing the sexual organs purifies an individual and discourages adultery by preventing pleasure from sexual activity. The practice has both psychological and long-term effects on women’s health.

Despite the practice being banned by the government and publicized as harmful, culture has yet to catch up with the law. As in many places, in rural Egypt, the traditions are stronger in the more neglected, less educated areas (such as in villages like Sohair’s) where female genital excision is still commonly accepted and practiced. A family member of Soheir’s was quoted in the LA Times as saying, “She didn’t want it. But she understood she did not have anything to say about it.”

Bata’a’s father has not spoken to press, but it has been reported that her older sister also underwent the procedure and that societal pressure to continue the practice is not expected to abate. Fadl himself has said to press that he is confident he will be cleared, as he was carrying out the procedure at the girl’s parents request.

Though the trial is encouraging, and legislation has stated it is attemping to use Fadl as an example of a lack of tolerance for the practice, activists believe there is much work to be done within the communities themselves. Speaking to The Guardian, a representative for the activist group Equality Now emphasized that the real problem is not with the individual doctors or family members, but with the beliefs of gender inequality that still hold sway in many rural communities.

What can you do on #OrangeDay?

 

Cover Photo Credit: Nasser Nouri, Flickr Creative Commons

 

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