A 12-year-old girl died this week in southern Egypt after her parents brought her to a doctor who performed female genital mutilation, a criminal practice that remains widespread in the region, according to a judicial statement. The girl's death in the province of Assiut prompted Egypt's public prosecutor to order the arrests of her parents and the physician who preformed the procedure, the AP reports. Since the mid-1990s, Egypt has been battling the centuries-old practice, which is misguidedly believed to control women's sexuality. In 2008, a law banning the cutting of female genitalia was passed despite strong opposition from conservative voices. But a 2015 government survey found that 87% percent of all Egyptian women between 15 and 49 years old have been circumcised.
"Many more Egyptian girls will be forced to undergo the procedure, and many of them will die—as long as there is no clear strategy from the state and a true criminalization of the practice," Amel Fahmy, managing director of Tadwein Gender Research Center, said Friday. In 2016, the Egyptian law was changed to redefine FGM from a misdemeanor to a felony, which draws tougher sentences and punishments. But women's rights advocates argue the law still contains loopholes. In 2016, a criminal court sentenced two doctors and the mother of a 17-year-old who died after FGM to only a one-year suspended sentence each, a verdict that drew sharp criticism from activists. "Judges themselves are not convinced that female circumcision is a crime that should be punished," said a human rights lawyer.
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