Egypt’s government announced on Wednesday that it had approved legal amendments toughening the penalties for female genital mutilation.
The new amendment to Article 242 increased both the minimum and maximum punishment for female genital mutilation. The minimum prison sentence has been increased from two years to five years. Meanwhile, the maximum prison sentence has been increased from seven years to up to 20 years.
According to the new amendment, medical professionals (i.e. doctors and nurses) who perform a female genital mutilation procedure can face 10 years in prison. If the victim dies as a result of the procedure, medical professionals involved can face between 15 and 20 years, depending on their role and profession.
Non-medical professionals, such as family members, involved in enforcing the procedure on a victim now face up to 10 years in prison if the victim dies. Any other individuals who are found to have promoted, encouraged or otherwise supported female genital mutilation can also be jailed, even if no procedure actually occurs.
The legal amendments were first proposed in early 2020 by the National Committee for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, headed by the National Council for Women and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood.
FGM in Egypt
Despite being criminalised by law in 2008, female genital mutilation continues to be widespread practice. The practice has also been condemned by religious authorities across the spectrum, including Egypt’s leading Islamic authorities.
According to the 2015 Egypt Health Issues Survey (EHIS), around 9 in 10 women aged 15-49 at the time had undergone the procedure. This number is only four percent lower than statistics from a 2008 survey.
The study found a greater prevalence of the practice among those with lower levels of education and those living in rural areas, compared to respondents living in urban areas and with higher levels of education and wealth.
Since 2015, Egypt’s government has implemented nationwide educational campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of female genital mutilation and have repeatedly tightened penalties. It is believe that the number of victims has declined in recent years, though official statistics are not available.
According to the World Health Organization, Egypt, Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Sierra Leone have the highest rates of female genital mutilation. A 2013 UNICEF report found that Egypt has the world’s highest total number of female genital mutilation victims, with 27.2 million women having undergone the procedure.