The first doctor to be brought to trial in Egypt on charges of female genital mutilation has been acquitted, raising fears the verdict could lead to FGM being practised with impunity.
Dr Raslan Fadl, who is also an Islamic preacher in a village in the Nile Delta, was acquitted of mutilating Sohair al-Bata’a in June 2013. The 13-year-old died during the procedure.
No reason was given – the verdict was instead scrawled in a ledger rather than announced in the courtroom in Agga, in the country’s north.
Sohair’s father, Mohamed al-Bata’a, was also acquitted of responsibility, despite police and health officials testifying that the child’s parents had admitted taking their daughter to Fadl’s clinic for the procedure.
The doctor was ordered to pay 5001 Egyptian pounds (about £450) to Sohair’s mother after the pair reached an out-of-court settlement.
The case had been pursued rigorously by activists and government officials in the hope that it would send a strong message to doctors that FGM, which was nominally made illegal in 2008, would no longer be tolerated. Instead, a lawyer from a local rights group – the first to take up Sohair’s case – said the verdict had signalled the opposite. “Of course there will be no stopping any doctor after this. Any doctor can do any FGM he wants now,” Atef Aboulenein said.
The lawyer’s colleague, Reda al-Danbouki, said the court’s decision contradicted the evidence presented by the prosecution. Fadl told investigators Sohair had died after a botched operation to remove genital warts. But a report by the national forensic authority “proved what happened in the genital area of the girl was a clear circumcision operation”, Danbouki said.
Suad Abu-Dayyeh, regional representative for Equality Now, which campaigned on the case, said: “It’s a very unjust verdict from the judge. It sends a very negative message. It was the first case in the country and we were hoping we could build on it.”
According to a survey by Unicef, an estimated 91% of married Egyptian women between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM, 72% by doctors. The research (pdf) suggests support for the practice has declined as 63% of women in the same age bracket supported it in 2008, compared with 82% in 1995.
But in rural areas, where there is sometimes a low standard of education, such as in Sohair’s village of Diyarb Bektaris, FGM is supported by many Muslims and Christians as a way to inhibit women’s supposed appetite for adultery.
Locals say they can easily find doctors willing to operate on girls for the equivalent of £18, and that the risk of prosecution is no deterrent. “We circumcise all our children – they say it’s good for our girls,” said Naga Shawky, 40. “The law won’t stop anything – the villagers will carry on. Our grandfathers did it and so shall we.”
Neither Fadl nor Sohair’s family could be reached for comment. But in an interview with the Guardian in May, the doctor denied FGM had taken place. “What circumcision? There was no circumcision. “It’s all made up by these dogs’ rights people,” he said.
Sohair’s grandmother, also named Sohair, admitted in May that the procedure had indeed occurred but the child’s death was “what God had ordered”.
Equality Now and local lawyers plan to appeal against the verdict.
Additional reporting by Manu Abdo.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014
Former Fox & Friends co-host Clayton Morris flees the US as he faces two dozen lawsuits
Facing more than two-dozen lawsuits alleging he committed real estate fraud, former "Fox & Friends Weekend" co-host Clayton Morris has reportedly fled the United States, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Morris, who previously resided in a $1.4 million home in New Jersey, moved his family to a coastal resort town in Portugal, the newspaper reported, citing a Facebook post from his wife.
Morris's wife and business partner, former MSNBC anchor Natali Morris, told the IndyStar that she and her husband plan to continue fighting the lawsuits from abroad.
Trump defenders argued his latest tweets weren’t really racist — but he just completely undercut their arguments
If you try to defend President Donald Trump, you will always end up having the rug pulled out from underneath you. It's a law of nature.
And yet, so many of the president's allies have failed to learn this simple lesson. So when Trump launched a new attack at progressive Democratic lawmakers that was one of his most obviously racist smears, inevitably, some of his defenders tried to deny the obvious truth.
His screed attacked a group of women who have come to define the left wing of the Democratic caucus, which includes Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Rashida Talib (MI), and Ayanna Pressley (MA). Though only Omar is an immigrant (she was a refugee from Somalia as a child), Trump seemed to assume all four women of color weren't born in the United States, and most egregiously, he suggested they should "go back" to other countries:
UK prime minister hopefuls slam Trump tweets — but refuse to call them racist
The two candidates vying to become Britain's next prime minister both condemned on Monday US President Donald Trump's xenophobic tweets about progressive Democrat congresswomen as "totally offensive" and "totally unacceptable".
But front-runner Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt refused to call the tweets racist when pressed to do so during their last debate before next week's announcement of who will succeed Prime Minister Theresa May.
May's spokesman had earlier said that the outgoing leader's view was that Trump's comments were "completely unacceptable".
On Monday Trump doubled down on a series of his tweets from the day before urging the four congresswomen of colour to "go back" to the countries they came from.