Every year the 14 of June marks Egypt’s National Day for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which was set by the Egyptian ministry of family and population in 2008, currently replaced by the ministry of health and population. The date was chosen to commemorate the death of a 12-year-old girl called “Boudor” who passed away after being subjected to FGM.
Boudor’s story dates back to 14 June 2007, when her mother took her to a clinic in Minya governorate, hours after she learned of her daughter’s success in the final exam of Grade 5 in primary school.
The mother went to the clinic and paid the doctor EGP 50 for the FGM operation. Then, the mother narrated that she left her daughter and went out to buy a medicine required by the doctor, and unfortunately when she returned to the clinic, she was surprised that her daughter’s face had turned blue. She thought that Boudor is only exhausted from the operation, but in fact the girl was dead.
Sadly, Boudor died as a result of an anaesthetic overdose, as later evidenced by the forensic report. However, the doctor denied in front of the court her responsibility for the death of the girl, and tried to persuade the mother to waive the record against her in exchange of EGP15,000, but the mother refused of course.
In 2008, Egypt imposed the penalty of imprisonment for between three months and two years on practitioners who commit the offense in the Law No. 126 of 2008. In August 2016, the government enacted a legislation to criminalise FGM in Article 242(bis) of the Criminal Code.
Meanwhile, the court sentenced the suspected doctor for one year in prison and fined her EGP 1,000.
Despite how harmful this incident was, it represents a turning point on the war against FGM in Egypt. Days after the death of Boudor on 28 June 2007, the ministry of health issued a Decree No 271 prohibiting FGM.
At that time, the Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s central authority for issuing religious rulings, also banned the practice of FGM.
This year, Maya Morsi, president of the National Council for Women (NCW) and head of the National Committee for the Elimination of FGM, and Azza al-Ashmawi, secretary-general of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, launched a campaign entitled “Boudor’s Month” to raise awareness of the negative impacts of FGM countrywide. The campaign runs for a month staring from 13 June to 14 July 2019.
Fortunately, the rates of FGM in Egypt are declining. It reached 92% among married women aged between 15-49, 85% among young women in the 20-25 age group, and 72% among girls in the 13-17 age group, as reported by the youth and population survey in Egypt.
However, there is a significant increase in the percentage of girls being circumcised by healthcare providers, reaching 65% among girls aged 13-17 years old, compared to 31% among married women aged between 15-49, according to the Population Council.
Commenting on the issue of medicalising FGM, Country Director of the Population Council in Egypt, Nahla Abdel-Tawab, told Daily News Egypt that it is important to spread sufficient awareness in order to eliminate the phenomenon of FGM, especially by healthcare providers, which is the medicalisation of FGM.
She explained that although most doctors are aware that circumcision is illegal, some of them conduct the surgery under other names, or suggest other doctors.
Abdel-Tawab added that doctors and nurses’ information on sexual health is very limited, and that they are not sufficiently aware of the psychological and health damages caused by female circumcision.
Furthermore, Abdel-Tawab stressed the need to consolidate efforts to work toward eradicating FGM, urging all government bodies and NGOs to incorporate in their plans and programme efforts to decrease the medicalisation of FGM, as well as to reduce the demand for circumcision by raising the awareness of families of the long- and short-term negative impacts of FGM.
Most of the activities against FGM did not sufficiently target men and young people, despite their indirect role which affects the decision to circumcise females, Abdel-Tawab declared.