On Monday the Egyptian government advocated for the increase in prison sentences given to perpetrators of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) in the country. The Egyptian cabinet approved the bill on Sunday and now it must be passed by parliament to become law.
The new law will ensure that a jail term of seven years is handed to perpetrators of FGM in Egypt, that is people who perform the FGM procedure. The other perpetrators of FGM being those who escort a girl or woman to undergo the procedure will serve a three year jail term.
Under the 2008 law which has been in effect till now, it was punishable by three months to two years in prison. That law had been enacted after an 11 year old girl had died following an FGM procedure.
This current increase in the punishment was inspired by another death. A 17 year old girl had died from complications during an FGM operation in a private hospital in Suez province.
Women right’s activists have, of course, lauded the governments decision but some share fears that the law may shroud the practice in even greater secrecy and drive the perpetrators of the act further underground.
Dalia Abd El-Hameed of the EIPR told the Thomson Reuters Foundation;
“It will also decrease the rate of reporting FGM cases, as imposing a punishment on whoever escorts a girl to have the operation will make families fear reporting cases.”
Despite the renewed efforts of various governments, FGM still affects an estimated 140 million girls and women across a swathe of Africa and parts of the Middle East and Asia. Reda al-Danbouki of the Egyptian group Women’s Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness bsaid that the government needs to go a step further from stiffening laws.
She says; “Many people still link the idea of honour with female circumcision, so it is not about stiffening the law as much as addressing people’s mindsets,”.
True as that may be, it still helps to know the government is fighting on the side of women.