Cairo: The death of a 13-year-old girl at a private clinic while undergoing a circumcision operation has once again highlighted that female genital mutilation continues to endanger lives in Egypt despite laws forbidding the practice.
The family of the girl, identified as Soher, filed an official complaint, accusing the doctor who performed the operation of having caused her death.
The girl died on Thursday evening in a village in the Daqahliya governorate, north-east of Cairo.
Doctors and nurses in Egypt have been banned from performing procedures involving female genital mutilation (FGM) since 2007 following the death of two young girls after being subjected to such surgeries at public hospitals. The procedure was subsequently declared illegal in 2008.
The ban notwithstanding, poorer families continue to put youngsters at grave risk. According to national statistics, around 80 per cent of girls born to poor families become victims of FGM, as against only 30 per cent of girls from wealthy, educated backgrounds.
“We left our daughter with the doctor and the nurse. Fifteen minutes later, the nurse took my daughter out of the operation room to a nearby room, along with three other girls whom the doctor was circumcising,” Soher’s father, Mohammad Ebrahim, a farmer, told the Al Masry Al Youm newspaper.
“I waited half an hour hoping that my daughter would wake up but, unfortunately, unlike the rest of the girls, she did not,” Ebrahim said.
“The doctor brought her back to the operation room and then we were surprised when an ambulance transferred her out of the clinic. When we asked the doctor what was going on, he told us that she was weak and that the clinic did not have the necessary [medical] equipment to treat her. When we reached Aga Central Hospital, they told us she was dead. If I had known the operation was going to kill her, I would never have [allowed] her to have it. The same doctor conducted a similar operation on her elder sister two years ago, and villagers visit this doctor because he has a remedy for everything at low prices,” the distraught father said.
“The doctor does everything and the nurse helps him. Doctors at the Aga Hospital told me that she died of an anaesthesia overdose,” the girl’s mother, Hasanat Naeem Fawzi, said.
“I want nothing but to hold the doctor accountable and to have justice for my daughter,” Hasanat said.
The girl’s uncle, Mohammad, said that the doctor had offered the family 20,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh10,299) in return for an assurance that they would not file a complaint against him.
Tareq Hamouda, head of the Aga prosecution in Daqahliya, summoned the doctor for an interrogation and ordered that an autopsy be conducted on the girl to find the cause of death.
Abdul Salam, the family’s lawyer, said that although most forensic doctors were on vacation, the prosecutor was able to call on one to conduct the autopsy. The health inspector’s report, he added, confirmed that the cause of death was a sharp drop in blood pressure resulting from shock trauma.
Abdul Wahab Sulaiman, undersecretary of the Ministry of Health in Daqahlia, said that the Health Directorate had not yet been notified of the incident. He stressed that FGM is strictly prohibited and that the doctor had violated the law.
— Ayman Sharaf is a journalist based in Cairo