[JURIST] Two men in Egypt were acquitted for charges relating to female genital mutilation (FGM) [WHO backgrounder] on Thursday. Since the law banning FGM was amended in 2008, this is the only case of FGM that resulted in trial. The charges stemmed from the death of a 13 year-old girl [Guardian report] who died last year of an allergic reaction to penicillin, after her father took her to a local doctor for an FGM procedure. The prosecutor charged the doctor with manslaughter and committing the practice of FGM, and charged the girl’s father with endangering her life and forcing her to undergo FGM. FGM is banned in Egypt, but the practice continues due to a lack of prosecutions [HRW report] and investigations, in part due to the belief among local authorities that FGM is a private, family issue. In response to the verdicts, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report calling for Egyptian authorities to take clear actions to end the practice of FGM by enforcing the law, prosecuting and investigating those who carry out the procedure and undertaking measures to increase national awareness of the harms of FGM.
FGM is a widespread practice, despite the international community’s consistent call to end the practice. The UN has consistently campaigned [JURIST report] for an end to FGM labeling the practice, among other things, gender-based discrimination, torture, an affront to human dignity and an irreparable, irreversible abuse of the human rights of women and girls. In July UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced plans to enact new laws [JURIST report] that will protect girls from the practice. In July 2013, noting the continued pervasiveness of FGM, UNICEF reported a world-wide decline in the practice [JURIST report] due to multiple campaigns intended to educate parents on the emotional and physical health risks associated with the procedure and its aftermath. Uganda joined the movement against FGM in 2009 [JURIST report] by outlawing it, although it is still commonly practiced there. The majority of FGM procedures occur in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.