The first person ever convicted of performing female genital mutilation (FGM) in Egypt has completed a 3-month jail term.

Dr. Raslan Fadl was accused of performing the procedure in 2013 on Suhair el-Batae. The procedure killed the 13-year old girl from rural Egypt. His path to facing  justice for her death has been a long and winding one.

Anti-FGM advocate, and CHIME FOR CHANGE partner, Equality Now, and the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA) hailed the served sentence as a milestone in efforts to enforce a 2008 ban on the practice.

The delay in sending him to jail and the short sentence are examples of how far Egypt still has to go to end FGM.

An FGM-related death

In 2013, Fadl was accused of performing an illegal FGM procedure on el-Batae, who died from complications related to the procedure.

Suhair was from a small farming community near Mansoura on the Nile Delta. FGM is widely practiced in Egypt’s rural areas.

The 13-year-old’s death sparked local and international outrage.

An all-too-common practice

Egypt has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world. Over 90% of women in the nation aged 15-59 have undergone some form of circumcision.


Despite Egypt’s government banning FGM in 2008, the process is still widely practiced. While the rate of female circumcision is falling among girls under 19 years old, the ban has had unintended consequences.

Rising awareness of the dangers of FGM have caused more Egyptians to seek out medical doctors, rather than tribal practitioners, under the idea that having the procedure done in a clinic is safer and thus OK.


"It's perceived as being safer, but no one learns how to do this at medical school. We should definitely assume more girls are dying as Suhair did," Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF’s representative in Egypt, told the BBC in 2013. The UN’s Children’s agency estimates 70% of FGM procedures in Egypt are carried out by doctors.

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Fadl avoided punishment

Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014 file photo, Reda el-Danbouki, Egyptian lawyer for 13-year-old Sohair el-Batea who died undergoing the procedure of female genital mutilation committed by Dr. Raslan Fadl, points at her grave in Dierb Biqtaris village, on the outskirts of Aga town in Dakahliya,120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Cairo, Egypt.
Image: Associated Press: Nariman El-Mofty

After Suhair el-Batae’s death in 2013, Fadl claimed the girl died due to an allergic reaction to penicillin. Equality Now and the CEWLA say penicillin allergy and hemorrhaging are often listed as cause of death to cover up FGM related deaths.

After months of delays, the official forensic report followed Fadl’s explanation and listed penicillin allergy as the cause of death. Still prosecutors put the girl’s father, Mohamed el-Batae, and the doctor on trial in for practicing FGM and manslaughter. In November 2014, northern Egyptian courts acquitted both men without giving any explanation.

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Prosecutors appealed the ruling and in January 2015, secured the first conviction for FGM in Egypt’s history. Fadl was sentenced to the minimum penalty of two years for manslaughter and three months for practicing FGM. His clinic was also ordered closed. Suhair’s father was given a three-month suspended sentence.

Despite the landmark ruling, Fadl remained free for months. At the time, Equality Now reported that his clinic was still open and regularly conducting female circumcisions.

After local and international pressure, Fadl’s medical license was suspended and on April 2, he finally entered prison.

Quick release

On July 2, Fadl was released. The doctor claims he only served three months because the manslaughter sentence had been suspended after he “reconciled” with the Suhair’s family.

“There was a reconciliation with the girl’s father and there is no problem now,” Fadl told the AFP in a phone interview. Reconciliation in cases like this usually include a cash payment to the deceased’s family. Notably, Suhair’s family had publicly maintained the doctor did nothing wrong and members of the extended family were quoted making pro-FGM statements.

Read More: 12 Myths About Female Genital Mutilation Debunked

Mixed messages

Advocates and experts are concerned that the short jail time and the suspended manslaughter sentence will send mixed signals to the public. But those closest to the case are still optimistic.

“Now Suhair el-Batae can lie peacefully in her grave in the knowledge that she has won her rights, and the rights of every girl who has been circumcised,” Reda al-Danbouki told the Guardian. Danbouki had spearheaded the effort to bring Fadl to justice.

“This verdict won’t eliminate FGM but at least doctors will think 10 times before doing it.”


Demand Equity

FGM Doctor Who Killed 13-year Old Is First to Ever Serve Jail Time in Egypt

By Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer