Egypt investigates teenage girl's death during botched circumcision 'operation'

Egypt investigates teenage girl's death during botched circumcision 'operation'
3 min read
A private hospital in the Egyptian city of Suez has been shut down as prosecutors investigate the death of a teenage girl during a Female Genital Mutilation procedure.
Despite the ban in 2008, FGM remains widespread in Egypt [AFP]

Egyptian prosecutors are investigating the death of a teenage girl during a female circumcision operation at a private hospital, health ministry and prosecution officials said on Monday.

Seventeen-year-old Mayar Mohamed Mousa died in al-Canal hospital on Sunday while under full anaesthesia in the province of Suez, said Lotfi Abdel Samee, the health ministry undersecretary in the province.

"This is something that the law has prohibited," stressed Abdel Samee.

Despite being banned in 1996 and further criminalised in 2008, with prison sentences ranging from three months to two years and a fine of up to EGP 5,000 ($563), Female Genital Mutilation remains a widespread practice in Egypt, especially in rural areas.

It is practised among Muslims as well as Egypt's minority Christians.

Many Egyptian parents believe that FGM guarantees "purity and chastity" by quelling their girls' sexual desires, making them, they claim, more attractive for marriage.

The law led to the first prison sentence against a doctor in Egypt in January last year, with the girl's father given a three-month suspended sentence.

On Sunday, Mayar's sister had just undergone the operation before she was sent in for surgery.

The girls' mother is a nurse, while their late father was a surgeon. The operation was being carried out by a registered female doctor, according to Abdel Samee.

Authorities shut down the hospital on Monday after transferring patients to other clinics as prosecutors questioned the hospital manager and medical staff involved in the procedure, Abdel Samee said.

They have also spoken to the mother, a prosecution official said.

The case was opened after a health inspector reported the circumstances of the girl's death.

Medical examiners have carried out an autopsy, and are soon due to report the cause of death, said Abdel Samee.

Many Egyptian parents believe that FGM guarantees purity and chastity by quelling their girls' sexual desires, making them, as they claim, more attractive for marriage.

While 200 million women and girls worldwide have been subjected to the practise, there have been major strides in Egypt, as well as Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Kenya against FGM, according to Claudia Cappa, the lead author of a February UN children's agency report on the issue.

The UNICEF report found that FGM among Egyptian girls aged between 15 and 19 had declined by a significant 27 percent in the past 30 years.

The report, however, warned that the current progress was "insufficient" to keep up with increasing population growth rates.

"If trends continue, the number of girls and women undergoing FGM/C will rise significantly over the next 15 years," the report said.

"The latest figures from the Egypt Demographic and Health Survey show that we're winning," the United Nations Development Programme said in a report last year.

"Mothers' attitudes are changing, too," UNDP said.

While 92 percent of mothers had undergone the procedure, only 35 percent of them "intend to circumcise their daughters", according to the UNDP report.

Victims of the procedure are left to cope with a range of consequences from bleeding and pain while urinating, extreme discomfort during sexual activity, fatal complications in childbirth and deep psychological trauma.