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Sunday, December 28, 1997 Published at 14:57 GMT



World

Egyptian ban on female circumcision upheld
image: [ Muslim fundamentalist cleric Sheikh Youssef el-Badri leaving the Council of State on Sunday ]
Muslim fundamentalist cleric Sheikh Youssef el-Badri leaving the Council of State on Sunday

A top Egyptian court, the Council of State, has upheld an official ban on female circumcision.

In June a lower court lifted the Health Minister Ismail Sallam's ban on mutilating female genitalia in response to a lawsuit brought by a group of Islamic fundamentalists, doctors and lawyers.

They had argued that the state could not forbid female circumcision because it was required under Islamic law and claimed Mr Sallam had abused his powers.

The Health Ministry, which introduced the ban last year, appealed against the decision.

In a statement the State Council ruled that "henceforth, it is illegal for anyone to carry out circumcision operations, even if the girl or her parents agree to it."

The court said female circumcision would only be allowed in cases of "medical necessity" and a certificate would have to be produced in such cases from the gynaecological department of a hospital.

Violators could face up to three years in prison.


BBC Cairo Correspondent Barbara Plett: "Practice based on myth and tradition" (1'43")
An Islamic proponent of female circumcision, Sheikh Yussef al-Badri, insisted the ruling was "not the end of the world."

He said: "The judge is a human being who can make correct or incorrect decisions according to the case. I have not yet decided how to respond but I will continue to work through the judiciary."

During the State Council proceedings Sheikh Badri told the court he had found three new 'hadiths' (acts and words ascribed to the prophet Muhammad) proving that he had authorized female circumcision.

He said: "I urge you, for the love of God, not to leave Islam to the mercy of those who want to make licit or illicit, as they wish, principles which have been in place for 14 centuries."

Last month the highest Sunni Muslim authority in Egypt, Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi of Al-Azhar, said he opposed the practice and revealed his own daughter had not been circumcised.

He said: "The 'ulemas' (theologians) of Islam are unanimous in agreeing that female circumcision has nothing to do with religion."

Earlier this month an Egyptian surgeon was sentenced to a year in prison after a 14-year-old girl died after a circumcision.

According to official estimates, more than 90 per cent of Egyptian girls are circumcised.

More than 70 per cent of the operations are carried out at home in unsanitary conditions and many girls bleed to death.

Egyptian human rights activists say the practice, which is designed to reduce the female libido and discourage promiscuity and adultery, is medieval and amounts to a physical and psychological assault.
 





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  Relevant Stories

28 Dec 97 | Background
Female circumcision: facts and myths

 
  Internet Links

The Egyptian Presidency

Circumcision Information and Resource Pages

Rainbo - Anti-circumcision group

More information on female circumcision (private page)

Female circumcision in the Middle East

Egypt HealthNet


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
 
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