Egyptian 17-year-old dies while undergoing female circumcision

The practice – carried out to control women's sexuality – remains widespread in the country, where an estimated 90 per cent of women have undergone some form of the procedure.

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CAIRO // A 17-year-old girl has died while undergoing female circumcision in Egypt, prompting health authorities to shut down the hospital and refer doctors for prosecution, a senior health official said on Tuesday.

The centuries-old practice, carried out to control women’s sexuality, was criminalised in Egypt in 2008. But it remains widespread in the country, where an estimated 90 per cent of women have undergone some form of the procedure.

Lotfi Abdel-Sameeia, a senior health ministry official, said Manar Moussa and her twin sister underwent the surgery in the city of Suez on Saturday. The twin sister survived, but Manar died of a suspected stroke while under anaesthesia.

The Suez city health inspector in charge of issuing burial permits reported his suspicions to health and security authorities after examining the body. A forensic report has yet to be released to determine the cause of death, Mr Abdel Sameeia said.

Authorities ordered the hospital closed on Monday and referred two doctors and the head of the hospital for prosecution. Mr Abdel-Sameeia said they face allegations of conducting a banned procedure and causing Manar’s death. He said the hospital has received several warnings before over its poor health record, including its lack of an intensive care unit.

Vivian Fouad, the head of a health ministry programme to combat female genital mutilation, called the incident a “crime committed by criminals known as doctors”. She said such operations are usually carried out on younger girls.

The first Egyptian case in which a doctor was charged, convicted, and sentenced for carrying out female circumcision occurred in 2015, two years after a girl’s death. The doctor was sentenced to two years in prison, which Ms Fouad said had served as “deterrence”.

Rights groups have criticised the law because it considers the practice a misdemeanour punishable by up to two years in prison. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, along with Ms Fouad, has called for the crime to be reclassified as a felony.

In 2012, The United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation.

* Associated Press