The Unkindest Cut

04.22.14

Soheir Battaa is dead. Why?

Soheir Bataa, 13, died after female genital mutilation in Egypt. Now her doctor is being prosecuted.

Soheir Bataa was 13 years-old when her parents took her to a mosque preacher-cum-doctor.  In the top floor of an Egyptian house, he mutilated her genitals, cutting away her clitoris and labia. There, Soheir died. With her death, a doctor is – for the first time – being prosecuted for performing female genital mutilation. He is also charged with medical negligence and running an unauthorized clinic. The girl’s father is also being charged. While female genital mutilation has been banned in Egypt since 2008, UNICEF reported last year that rates of Egyptian women and girls who have been cut range from 96 percent (women in their late 40s) to 81 percent (girls under 19). While rarer in cities and among educated Egyptians, genital cutting is the norm in Soheir’s town. Activists hope to see the doctor imprisoned and his clinic closed.  But, as the Los Angeles Times notes, “although mourning for Soheir seemed heartfelt, the practice is quietly defended by many families.” Many villagers say they would simply seek another practitioner. Advocates support female genital mutilation in the belief it upholds the value of chastity. Unfortunately, a 13 year-old girl just died in service of that value.