Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday called on the Egyptian authorities to stipulate further legal reforms against female genital mutilation (FGM) and ensure that the laws criminalizing the practice are strictly enforced.
On August 31, the Egyptian parliament approved a bill toughening penalties against those involved in FGM, a practice believed to be rife in the country although illegalized in 2008.
“Egyptian authorities should make sure that laws and policies against female genital mutilation are enforced, including holding accountable medical facility directors who allow the practice to take place,” the watchdog said in a statement.
In May, an Egyptian teenage girl died of complications caused by illegal FGM surgery conducted at a private hospital.
“Stricter penalties for female genital mutilation in Egypt now reflect the horrific and potentially deadly consequences of this discriminatory practice,” said Rotana Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The new bill increases punishment to between five and seven years in prison to those convicted of performing the procedure. The penalty can be higher if the FGM procedure results in permanent disability or death.
The previous penalty was a maximum two-year jail term.
Around 92 per cent of Egyptian women aged 15 to 49 years have been subjected to FGM, according to government figures. The practice involves the removal of part or all of clitoris.
Advocates of the age-old tradition believe that FGM is necessary for women's chastity, allegedly by controlling their sexual desires.
“A successful strategy to uproot FGM will require working with the community to change hearts and minds,” Begum said.