Raslan Fadl, a doctor in a Nile delta village, is accused of killing 13-year-old schoolgirl Sohair al-Bata’a in a botched operation
A doctor is to stand trial in Egypt on charges of female genital mutilation on Thursday, the first case of its kind in a country where FGM is illegal but widely accepted.
Activists warned this week that the landmark case was just one small step towards eradicating the practice, as villagers openly promised to uphold the tradition and a local police chief said it was near-impossible to stamp out.
Raslan Fadl, a doctor in a Nile delta village, is accused of killing 13-year-old schoolgirl Sohair al-Bata’a in a botched FGM operation last June. Sohair’s father, Mohamed al-Bata’a, will also be charged with complicity in her death.
Fadl denies the charges, and claims Sohair died due to an allergic reaction to penicillin she took during a procedure to remove genital warts.
“What circumcision? There was no circumcision,” Fadl shouted on Tuesday evening, sitting outside his home where Sohair died last summer. “It’s all made up by these dogs’ rights people [human rights activists].”
In the next village along, Sohair’s parents had gone into hiding, according to their family. Her grandmother – after whom Sohair was named – admitted an FGM operation had taken place, but disapproved of the court case.
“This is her destiny,” said the elder Sohair. “What can we do? It’s what God ordered. Nothing will help now.”
According to Unicef, 91% of married Egyptian women aged between 15 and 49 have been subjected to FGM, 72% of them by doctors, even though the practice was made illegal in 2008. Unicef’s research suggests that support for the practice is gradually falling: 63% of women in the same age bracket supported it in 2008, compared with 82% in 1995.
But in rural areas where there is a low standard of education – like Sohair’s village of Diyarb Bektaris – FGM still attracts instinctive support from the local population, who believe it decreases women’s appetite for adultery.