Egypt constitutional court rules in favour of criminalising FGM

Ahram Online, Sunday 3 Feb 2013

Lawsuit challenging prohibition of female genital mutilation (FGM) is rejected by Egypt's High Constitutional Court

Egypt's High Constitutional Court on Sunday rejected a lawsuit challenging the illegality of the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Egypt.

The lawsuit, first filed in 2008 by a number of Islamists lawyers, challenges a 2007 health ministry decision criminalising FGM and prohibiting doctors from practicing it, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website.

A counter-suit was later filed – by lawyers for the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, labour lawyer Khaled Ali and doctors' syndicate head Hamdy El-Sayed – against calls to legalise the controversial practise.

"FGM is a crime against our daughters; it is an African custom that is not practised in any Arab country except Egypt, Somalia, Sudan and Djibouti," Ali declared via Twitter.

In 1997, FGM was formally outlawed by Egypt's health ministry. Yet, according to ministry figures, at least 94.6 per cent of married women in Egypt have been subject to the practise.

While being historically rooted in Ancient Egyptian culture, the FGM issue – and its ostensible permissibility within an Islamic context – has led to divisions between Egyptian religious clerics.

In 2006, the grand mufti of Al-Azhar signed a document denouncing the practice, asserting that it was "not necessary" according to Islamic tenets.

Other clerics, however, argue that the criminalisation of FGM would hinder the implementation of Islamic Law, arguing that FGM is an Islamic practice.

In 1997, Youssef El-Badry filed a lawsuit against the banning of FGM, asserting that it was an Islamic custom the prohibition of which would constitute a violation of Islamic Law.

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