Cairo: An Egyptian man has filed a legal complaint against his wife, accusing her of illegally subjecting their two little girls to female genital mutilation (FGM), in the first such a step by a spouse in the country.

The man, a native of the Upper Egyptian province of Qena, claimed that his wife had violated the law and disobeyed him by having the banned procedure performed on the girls aged 12 and 10.

“My wife did this without my knowledge. She should be punished as the operation has caused bad psychological effects on the two children,” the man, identified as Nour Al Deen Hanafi told a local television station.

A court in Qena, around 650km south of Cairo, has set November 11 for hearing the case.

If convicted, the mother could face up to three years in prison under the law.

In recent years, Egypt has stepped up efforts to curb the age-old practice, believed to be rife in rural and remote areas of the country.

In 2016, the parliament approved a law toughening penalty against FGM.

The law punishes anyone involved in the practice, banned in Egypt since 2007, by five to seven years in prison instead of a previous penalty of a maximum three years of imprisonment.

Parents subjecting their girls to the procedure face a jail term raging from one to three years.

The FGM practice, which includes the removal of all or part of the clitoris, is usually done for local girls before reaching puberty.

Advocates of female circumcision believe it is imperative for women’s chastity allegedly by curbing their sexual desires.

Experts say that severe forms of FGM can lead to life-long psychosexual problems and troubles related to menstruation, sexual intercourse and childbirth.

In the past, FGM was performed in Egypt by local midwives and even barbers without the use of anaesthetics, using knives or razors.

In recent years, however, some 82 per cent of FGM operations in Egypt have been performed by medical practitioners, according to official figures.

In December 2016, a criminal court in the coastal city of Suez sentenced a medical doctor to one year in prison after a teenage girl died of complications after undergoing FGM surgery conducted by the physician.

Egypt’s official Islamic authority, Dar Al Iftaa, has proscribed the procedure as un-Islamic and backed anti-FGM campaigns in the country.