In 2008 the government of Hosni Mubarak criminalized female genital mutilation in Egypt.
The law had little effect.
In 2011, during the Arab Spring the Obama administration was happy to see the dictator Mubarak overthrown. When the Egyptian people elected Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi as their president, the Obama administration celebrated by immediately sending then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Cairo.
Clinton was the first foreign leader to meet with Morsi.
The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood was notably in favor of female genital mutilation did not faze Hillary Clinton, supposed champion of women’s rights.
British journalist Bel Trew—possessor of one of the world’s great names, even though it seems to be misspelled-- reports in The Daily Beast:
“In the era of the Muslim Brotherhood, the people perceived that they encouraged these practices,” [Vivian] Fouad [of the National Population council] said. Even though it is not addressed or endorsed in the Qur’an, genital mutilation fit into the kind of traditionalist view of Egyptian life that the Brotherhood exploited for its own ends.
In 2011, local media reported that the then-ruling Muslim Brotherhood was offering subsidized female circumcision at mobile clinics. The Daily Beast obtained a leaflet, dated April 2012, emblazoned with the logo of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and detailing discount medical services being made available….
In a televised debate in 2012, then-President Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the military last July, brushed off female genital mutilation as a personal issue between mother and daughter.
As you know, the Obama administration was not at all pleased by the military coup in Egypt.
Now, however, under a military dictatorship, the Egyptian government will, for the first time, prosecute a physician for mutilating a child.
It was supposed to be a routine “operation.” The parents of 13-year-old Soheir al-Batea, from a village in Egypt’s Nile Delta, took her to be circumcised at the local clinic that had been recommended by friends. They had done the same with her older sister a year before. A doctor typically cuts off the whole clitoris or a part of it, sometimes in extreme cases removing the labia as well, in a procedure that is now illegal but still deemed necessary by many Egyptians to preserve the purity of the child and control sexual desire.
Dr. Raslan Fadl, a well-respected imam and employee of the nearby government hospital, performed the illegal procedure as he had done on dozens of other girls. He typically treated 10 women a day, locals said afterward. But something went wrong and Soheir, described by friends and family as bright, smart and lively, died en route to hospital.
According to the forensic report issued shortly after her death last June, an allergic reaction to penicillin administered during the controversial operation is what killed her.
This little girl’s case, like many before her, would normally have been buried and forgotten. Since female genital mutilation (FGM) was criminalized in Egypt in 2008, both parents and practitioners fearful of arrest have kept quiet when there are complications….
But now, for the first time in Egyptian history, a prosecution is under way. Both Soheir’s father, a farmer, and Dr. Fadl are to stand trial charged with illegally mutilating the child’s genitals and with manslaughter. The opening session in court is scheduled for next week….
If Dr. Fadl is found guilty he could face 10 years in jail. The law calls for those performing FGM to be fined up to $700 and given three years behind bars, but because the operation resulted in death, he faces a longer sentence. It is still unclear what the punishment of the girl’s father might be.
As has been noted, on this blog and in many other places, this barbaric practice is extremely widespread in Egypt. It is also practiced in other North African nations.
The facts are depressing:
Egypt has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world: a staggering 91 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been cut, according to a 2013 report released by UNICEF (PDF). Genital mutilation is practiced in various forms across the African continent, from Nigeria to Somalia. In Egypt, it is most common—indeed, almost universal—in rural areas like Diyarb Buqtaris village where Soheir grew up. But it crosses all class boundaries. The West often labels the excisions an Islamic practice, but cutting occurs in Egypt in both Muslim and Christian communities, and it goes on despite the fact that the Egyptian Coptic Church and Al Azhar, the country’s leading Islamic authority, have condemned it.
At the least, we understand that outlawing female genital mutilation did not stop it, not at all. And we know that a democratic election is just as likely to elevate a candidate who finds nothing wrong with it.
Now, what should a government do when faced with such deeply engrained disrespect for the law, such visceral misogyny? What will it take to put an end to this barbarism?
Aside from a show of martial force, perhaps the world's opprobrium would have some effect. Exposing such practices to the whole world, shaming those who do it, seems like a step in the right direction.
Naturally, Islamists strongly oppose a public exposure of depravity that is carried out in the name of their religion. Recently, they have been hard at work trying to shut down Honor Diaries, a Clarion project film about Muslim honor killings, among other misogynist practices.