Egypt’s government has recently amended a law to curb female circumcision that has been practised by Egyptians for several decades.
The new amendments to the circumcision law approved by the government involve raising the maximum punishment up to 20 years in jail instead of seven and the minimum jail sentence to five. The amendments also bar doctors and other medical staff from conducting the procedure, banning them from work for five years if they violate law.
The female genital mutilation (FGM), or circumcision, involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons that can lead to long-lasting problems like infertility, infections and childbirth complications, according to World Health Organization (WHO).
Dar al-Ifta, a pioneering Sunni institution for fatwa in the Islamic world, has said that female circumcision is “illegal” since it is harmful to women, noting that it is practised in a harmful way that makes it forbidden in Islamic Shari’a.
However, some Islamic scholars said doctors could specify which cases need circumcision if they have scientific reasons for this.
Dr. Hegazi Abdul-Nabi, an Islamic studies researcher, agrees with Dar al-Ifta’s ruling on prohibiting female circumcision, saying Dar al-Iftaa has several scholars. If a doctor says that a case requires circumcision, there will be no problem in Shariah, he said. He added scholars issue their religious rulings in such cases in line with the scientific opinions of doctors.
Hazem Al-Gendi, a member of Egypt’s Senate, said the amendment is an important step towards eradicating this evil practice, adding that it is a crime and the law must punish those involved in this practice.
He noted that female circumcision is prohibited in several countries all over the world, calling for increasing awareness about its risks and its psychological impacts.
Female circumcision is still rampant in Egypt. Around nine in ten women, aged 15-49, have been circumcised and the statistic is only four percent less compared to a 2008 survey, according to the 2015 Egypt Health Issues Survey (EHIS).
The amendment pleased many women who have been circumcised as many of them have suffered health and psychological problems. They have fought against this practice and called for stopping it across the country.
Egypt has been listed among countries where this practice is most prevalent although the government has been combating it for years. Last year, a 12-year-old girl died while being circumcised, and the incident angered wider audience in Egypt.
It is not the first time that Egypt has made amendments to the law banning female circumcision. Commenting on the move, Chairwoman of National Council for Women (NCW) Maya Morsi said tightening punishment against those involved in female circumcision is an important step in Egyptian woman’s progress.
Morsi told local media that it is a brutal ritual that causes psychological harm to girls. She revealed that a national committee was established, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Solidarity and all concerned parties, to eliminate this practice.
Many women expressed satisfaction about the move as they have been subjected to pressure in the community to undergo this practice. They noted that most married women have undergone circumcision as they thought when they were young that this was an essential practice.
However, interestingly, some women support FGM. Rasha Daba, a married woman, said that when circumcision is performed by a professional doctor, it will not harm the girl. What has been circulated on media regarding problems caused by this practice is inaccurate as almost all women in fifties, and their mothers and grandmothers, have been subjected to circumcision, she said.
Dr. Manal, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said that all circumcision is not harmful.