Raslan Fadl became the first doctor in Egypt to be convicted of illegally performing female genital mutilation (FGM) when he was sentenced to two years in prison on Sunday.
Soheir al-Batea, 13, died last June when she was administered a fatal dosage of anesthesia during the procedure.
A Mansoura court handed down the two-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter, and issued an additional three-month sentence for illegally performing FGM. Fadl was also fined LE500.
The clinic where Fadl performed the surgery was also shut down for a year. Soheir’s father, Ibrahim al-Batea, was given a suspended three-month sentence for allowing the operation.
The National Population Council (NPC) released an official statement commending the conviction.
“The court’s decision in Mansoura today against the doctor is a historic one. It is the first case where a perpetrator of FGM was punished since the anti-FGM law was passed seven years ago,” doctor Atef al-Shitany, a representative of the NPC, wrote in the statement.
The NPC declared it would continue to fight against FGM through a national awareness-raising campaign that would encourage people to report families and doctors who perform or enable the procedure. The campaign is to be aired on television.
International rights organizations also lauded Sunday’s conviction. A representative of Equality Now, a London-based women’s rights organization, told the UK-based channel BBC that the decision was a “monumental victory.”
Under Article 246 of the Egyptian Penal Code, FGM is punishable with a minimum of three months to a maximum of two years in prison, and a maximum fine of LE5,000.
After Soheir’s death, her family reached a settlement with the doctor and did not press charges. However, the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood, the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) and the Equality Now organization filed a case against Fadl and Soheir’s father.
Fadl denied that he performed FGM on Soheir, claiming that he had been removing genital warts and her death was caused by a penicillin allergy.
At the end of November, the Aga Misdemeanor Court in Daqahlia acquitted both Fadl and Soheir’s father of involuntary manslaughter, though Fadl was ordered to pay LE5,000 to the victim’s mother. The acquittal sparked international outrage.
The prosecution appealed the verdict and the case was retried before a different court.
According to a Demographic and Health Survey, at least 91 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15-49 have been subjected to FGM.
FGM has proven fatal in a number of instances, as it can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure leading to instant death. It has also been shown to cause lasting psychological damage and distress in some cases.