Egypt: 'Women's NGO takes pro-FGM Parliamentarian to court'
Egypt’s New Women Foundation said they are suing Islamist Parliament member Azza al-Garf over her pro-female genitals mutilation (FGM) statements. The women’s rights foundation sent a letter to the speaker of parliament Saad al-Katatny, informing him of legally going after Garf and asking for his permission to be allowed to take the MP to court.
The parliament needs to lift immunity for an MP in order for them to be held accountable in a court of law.
Garf was reported saying that FGM is an Islamic practice and that the anti-FGM laws should be amended. Garf is a Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) member, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
“We are on our way to sue Garf to preserve our rights and the gains of Egyptian women,” said the open letter to the speaker.
“We are suing her for going against Egyptian laws that criminalize sexual harassment and FGM, practices that goes against women rights and human rights.
“We completely refuse Garf’s statements and announce that she does not represent us.”
Garf gave similar statements on her Twitter account last month, calling for lifting the laws that criminalize FGM. The statements stirred criticism, which led to the FJP to announce that Garf has no account on Twitter and no comments were made by Garf herself.
Rights surveys in the country put the number of women who go through FGM to be around 86 percent. Current Egyptian law bans the practice and gives prison sentences to any medical staff who performs the surgery. However, many families go to underground clinics to get their daughters the procedure, risking permanent scares or even death.
In 2010, a 13-year-old girl died after a local doctor in the Nile Delta region’s Menoufiya governorate failed in the operation.
Local media said the doctor was arrested soon after when an unknown good Samaritan phoned a hotline service set up to report on female genital mutilation incidents.
The doctor, whose name was not revealed in local media reports of the incident, is to stand trial for the illegal operation that led to the girl’s death.
In June 2007, 12-year-old Badour Shakour died as a result of a circumcision operation. The death sparked a battle within the country over the use of the controversial medical procedure. Her death galvanized women and children’s rights groups to action, where they pushed for more stringent penalties against those who carry out female genital mutilation.
Shakour’s cause of death was an overdose of anesthetic, but her memory was the cause of an awakening that reached to the upper echelons of government.
In summer 2008, Egypt’s Parliament passed a law that ostensibly bans the controversial procedure. Not that it should have needed to legislate against FGM – it was already officially banned in the country during the mid-nineties – but with doctors continuing to perform the procedure on girls as young as five, Parliament felt it was necessary to intercede.
The new law stipulates a fine of 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($185) to 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($900) and a prison term of anywhere between three months and two years if caught performing FGM.
A doctor also could lose their medical license. In the case of Shakour, the doctor who performed the procedure languishes in prison after being convicted of manslaughter.