A doctor has been arrested after the death of a 12-year-old girl he had performed female genital mutilation (FGM) on.
Nada Hassan Abdel-Maqsoud bled to death at a private clinic in Manfalout, close to the city of Assiut, after her parents, uncle and aunt took her for the procedure.
Her parents and aunt were also arrested after reports of her death emerged.
The doctor, 70, carried out the procedure without anaesthesia, without a nurse present and without any qualifications as a surgeon, according to local prosecutors.
The surgeon, known only as “Ali AA” claimed the family brought the girl to him for “plastic surgery” on her genitals.
Family members reportedly admitted that they knew they were taking the child to undergo FGM, and that her mother and aunt had stayed in the room during the procedure.
FGM involves the removal of the clitoris and sometimes other external female genital organs. Tradition in some parts of rural Egypt demands that young women undergo FGM as a way of demonstrating sexual purity.
Egyptian authorities have struggled for years to eradicate the practice, despite a 2008 ban and new laws in 2016 criminalising parents and doctors who facilitate it. Under the new laws, anyone who performs FGM faces between three and 15 years in prison, while anyone accompanying girls or women to be cut faces up to three years in jail.
But campaigners warned at the time that the new laws were unlikely to combat the practice, given the lack of convictions of doctors and reliance on people to self-report. They also warned more girls could be taken to hospitals or other medical facilities to have the procedure, meaning that complications were less likely but so was public knowledge of the practice itself.
In 2013, 13-year-old Sohair al-Bata’a died as a result of FGM. Raslan Fadl was the first doctor to be convicted of FGM, serving three months of his sentence in a case considered a watershed in convincing Egyptian lawmakers to criminalise the practice.
Fadl was released after reconciling with the Bata’a family, a loophole in the law that campaigners say shields families and doctors from prosecution.
“FGM continues to occur because there is no desire from the political leadership to stop it. The state is tolerant of female genital mutilation despite the presence of law, and despite receiving funds and grants from abroad [to combat it],” said Reda El Danbouki, a lawyer and campaigner against FGM.
He said judges fail to apply the law because they “are affected by a culture which does not see FGM as a crime”.
He added: “The police and the officials carrying out investigations don’t care about domestic and sexual violence, including FGM.”
Danbouki criticised Egypt’s doctors’ syndicate for suspending convicted doctors rather than removing them permanently from the register.
According to Unicef, 87% of of females aged 15 to 49 have undergone FGM in Egypt. About 14% of girls under 14 have been cut.
An estimated 27.2 million Egyptian women and girls had been subjected to FGM in 2016, according to Unicef, out of a population of almost 100 million.
Rania Yehia, of Egypt’s National Council for Women, an initiative affiliated to the presidency, said that her organisation would continue to campaign to raise awareness.
Yehia maintained that the strength of tradition in rural Egypt makes the problem hard to combat, but blamed the persistence of the issue on external factors. “This habit comes from outside Egypt. It comes from elsewhere in the continent of Africa … not from north Africa,” she said.
Additional reporting by Adham Youssef