Egypt to Toughen Penalties for Female Genital Mutilation

(Bloomberg) -- Egypt’s cabinet on Wednesday toughened penalties for female genital mutilation, authorizing prison terms of up to 20 years in a bid to curb a practice that has persisted despite religious edicts against it.

The changes approved by the government include holding doctors and other medical professionals accountable for performing the procedure, as well as barring them from practice for a number of years and shuttering facilities where operations are performed, the cabinet said in a statement.

Roughly 92% of married Egyptian women between the ages of 15 and 49 having undergone the procedure, according to national figures cited by the United Nations.

Human rights activists have long advocated against it, but government efforts to end it have met with resistance. Many in the country view it as rooted in Islamic teachings. That notion, however, has been disputed by al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s most respected religious institution, located in Cairo.

Under the new guidelines, which must still be approved by parliament, the penalties range from five years in prison with hard labor to 20 years, depending on who performed the procedure and whether it resulted in severe injury or death. Anyone who encouraged or requested the operation also faces jail time.