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Human Rights Watch appeals Egypt to enact new and harsher legal penalties to curb female genital mutilation (FGM) practices

"FGM is needed to curb women's sexuality " says Ilhami Agena, a lawmaker from Egypt speaking against the request

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FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2014, photo, relatives of 13-year-old Soheir al-Batea who died undergoing the procedure of female circumcision walk in front of her home in Dierb Biqtaris village, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Cairo, Egypt. Source: VOA
  • “Broader law reform is needed to adequately combat this horrific practice” says Rothna Begum from HRW
  • An estimated 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone some form of the forced procedure
  • Ilhami Agena, a lawmaker commented on the topic saying “If women are not circumcised, they will become sexually strong and there will be a problem”

A leading international rights group on Friday called on Egypt to enact new legal penalties for the widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The appeal by Human Rights Watch (HRW) came over a week after the Egyptian parliament voted in favor of toughening penalties for FGM, adopting amendments that will punish perpetrators with 15 years in prison if a child dies and up to seven years for performing the procedure.

Rothna Begum, the Middle East women’s rights researcher at HRW, said that the stricter penalties now “reflect the horrific and potentially deadly consequences of this discriminatory practice.” But she added that a “broader law reform is needed to adequately combat this horrific practice” and warned that tens of thousands of girls remain at risk.

The centuries-old practice, misguidedly believed to control women’s sexuality, was criminalized in Egypt in 2008. However, it remains widespread and an estimated 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone some form of the forced procedure.

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Genital mutilation is practiced among both Muslims and Christians, and social pressures are strong – many families fear that an uncircumcised daughter will be unable to marry.

While the amendments passed without much resistance, a lawmaker sparked an outcry after saying in remarks published in media last week that FGM is needed to curb women’s sexuality and to counterbalance allegedly widespread male impotence in Egypt.

Ilhami Agena claimed that 64 percent of Egyptian men suffer from impotence, citing increased sales of Viagra.

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“If women are not circumcised, they will become sexually strong and there will be a problem,” an imbalance leading to divorce, he added.

In response, female activist Janet Abdel-Aleem mocked Agena, suggesting the government should subsidize Viagra instead of circumcising women. (VOA)

  • Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu

    Good atleast initiatives are taken by human rights watch. It’s a serious issue and should anyhow be taken care of not to carry on such practices.

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Southern Hemisphere’s Worst Weather Disasters Ever, Claims UN On Cyclone Idai

"We have also called on South African companies to donate for humanitarian assistance and following this morning's assessment, we'll make a further announcement for how we'll assist going forward," he said Tuesday.

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Family members dig for their son, who got buried in the mud when Cyclone Idai struck in Chimanimani about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, March 19, 2019. VOA

Cyclone Idai may be one of the worst weather disasters ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, U.N. experts say, with Mozambique suffering the brunt of the storm.

Idai tore across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe late last week, leaving behind a trail of devastation, including more than 350 people killed, hundreds missing, and hundreds of thousands homeless.

Mozambique’s death toll exceeded 200 Tuesday, President Filipe Nyusi said, after saying earlier the final number of dead could top 1,000.

Officials say the cyclone created an “inland ocean” across the country.

Soldiers and paramedics carry injured people from a helicopter in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, March, 19, 2019.
Soldiers and paramedics carry injured people from a helicopter in Chimanimani, about 600 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe, March, 19, 2019. VOA

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies called the damage to the coastal city of Beira “massive and horrifying.” They estimate 90 percent of the city was destroyed.

Rescue workers were dropping food, fresh water, and blankets to flood victims stranded on roofs, treetops, and any high piece of land. Airdrops are the only way to help most people in Beria, where roads are under water and communications gone.

Mozambique-based UNICEF spokesman Daniel Timme told VOA via Skype Tuesday officials are still getting details on the impact of the storm.

“At the moment, we still don’t have the full picture of the situation, but we agree with the assessment of the government that the disaster is of a dimension which is much, much bigger than we thought in the beginning,” he said. “This is due to the fact that information was coming in very slowly, because the city of Beira had been cut off of all communication lines and still is, and has also been cut off physically because the roads to Beira are destroyed.”

FILE - Drone footage shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in the settlement of Praia Nova, which sits on the edge of Beira, Mozambique, March 18, 2019.
Drone footage shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in the settlement of Praia Nova, which sits on the edge of Beira, Mozambique, March 18, 2019. VOA

​Timme says UNICEF is appealing to international donors for more than $20 million to support its response in the three affected countries.

“We are at the same time actually preparing to supply people with the most urgent things. What is very important in such situations is the supply of safe drinking water, so we will be supplying water purification pills.”

South Africa sent a military force to Mozambique to help with the rescue and recovery. International relations spokesman, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, tells VOA South Africa will try to do more.

“We have also called on South African companies to donate for humanitarian assistance and following this morning’s assessment, we’ll make a further announcement for how we’ll assist going forward,” he said Tuesday.

In Zimbabwe, the death toll stood at 98 Tuesday. One local government official says bodies from Zambia have been flowing on the river into neighboring Mozambique.

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Malawi’s government put the death toll in that country at 56 with nearly 600 people suffering from storm-related injuries.

The European Union announced Tuesday it is sending an initial $4 million in aid to the three devastated countries. Britain has also pledged a separate aid package and the U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe said it is “mobilizing to provide support,” without giving any details. (VOA)