Egyptian authorities have said they will prosecute the father of three girls who they say were tricked into undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) and the doctor who performed the surgery.
The public prosecutor’s office said the girls, who were all minors, had been told the doctor was coming to vaccinate them against the coronavirus, but instead they were injected with a drug that knocked them out and operated on.
FGM is illegal in Egypt and when the girls, whose parents are divorced, told their mother what had happened she reported it to the authorities.
“The public prosecution has ordered the referral of a doctor and the father of three girls to an urgent criminal trial,” said an official statement released on Wednesday.
It said the doctor had been charged with performing the procedure and the father with assisting him in the alleged crime.
Egypt banned FGM in 2008 and made it a felony in 2016. Doctors who perform the procedure can now be jailed for up to seven years and anyone requesting it be carried out faces up to three years in jail.
But no one has been successfully prosecuted under the 2016 law and women’s rights groups in Egypt say the ban has not been well enforced. Much of society is permissive of FGM, which is widely practised by both Christians and Muslims.
A 2016 survey by the U.N. Children’s Fund showed 87 percent of Egyptian women and girls aged 15-49 had undergone FGM.
Women’s rights campaigners said the mother’s decision to report the crime showed awareness of the damage FGM does was increasing, and welcomed what they said was decisive action by the authorities.
“It is encouraging that authorities have started to take action against female genital mutilation and that girls and mothers have become more aware of the dangers of the procedure,” said Entessar el-Saeed, head of the Cairo Center for Development and Law.
The head of Egypt’s National Council for Women Maya Morsi also welcomed the swift prosecution, tweeting that there should be no tolerance for the practice.
World leaders have pledged to eradicate FGM by 2030, but campaigners say the ancient ritual, which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, remains deeply entrenched in many places.
The ritual is underpinned by the desire to control female sexuality, but is often justified for cultural or religious reasons in conservative societies.
It can cause long-lasting mental and physical health problems including chronic infections, menstrual problems, infertility, pregnancy and childbirth complications.