The UN Development Programme director in Egypt Ignacio Artaza expressed hope toward eliminating female genital mutilation after he visited Be'r Anbar Village in Qena few days ago and listened to the opinion of villagers about the practice.
"I visited Be'r Anbar village, Qeft Center and Qena, in the past few days, and I had the opportunity to hear a strong message from the rural community in this region... to put an end to female genital mutilation as a harmful habit. The whole village, including elders and school students, denounced circumcision as violent, wrong, and harmful," Artaza wrote.
Artaza denounced the practice saying a lot of women and girls are circumcised under the name of "tradition." Circumcision rate among women between 15 and 49 years old amounted to 91 percent, according to the Demographic and Health Surveys Program data in 2008.
Be'r Anbar residents stressed that Egyptian women deserve new traditions that protect and maintain women's rights, according to Artaza.
He added there was a great change thanks to the joint efforts of families, community activists, authorities, development agencies and media to eliminate the harmful practice, which is a violation of human rights.
"But let's be honest: there is no justification for this practice, whether moral, religious, cultural, medical or other justifications," said Artaza.
The case of circumcised 13-year-old Soheir al-Batea from Daqahalia was one of the cases that received attention over the past year.
In June 2013, Batea died due to complications that resulted from an illegal operation of genital mutilation.
On the same day Artaza visited the village, he said an Egyptian court acquitted the defendants of Daqahlia Governorate.
Legislation, written over half a decade ago, prohibits female genital mutilation, Artaza wrote, but the legislation must be strengthened to ensure the full protection of the rights of women and girls and to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.
The United Nations had recently expressed its deep concern in a statement regarding the aquittal of two defendants who were implicated in Batea's fatal operation. "The United Nations in Egypt is deeply concerned by recent developments in the case of Soheir El-Batei, the victim of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) who died in June 2013, as a result of an illegal procedure," it said in a statement on Thursday.
"The misdemeanor court in the district of Aga, Dakahlia Governorate, dismissed the case today, following a settlement between the victim’s family and the accused," the statement explained.
The court acquitted the male doctor Thursday of carrying out female circumcision that killed a teenager, in the first case brought since the procedure was banned in 2008, AFP reported.
The court also acquitted the 14-year-old's father who took her to the doctor for the operation.
The trial was the first since the a law was passed criminalizing female genital mutilation in 2008.
The settlement prevented the court from deciding on the guilt of the accused, the UN said in a statement, but under existing legislation, there is no provision to prohibit such a settlement, resulting in the charges being dropped.
Despite the ban, female genital mutilation is still widespread in Egypt, especially in rural and poor areas and is practiced among minority Christians as well as Muslims, according to AFP. The practice involves the removal of the clitoris and, sometimes, even more extreme mutilation in a bid to control women's sexuality.
The UN pointed out that Thursday marks the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United Nations said it is committed to protecting the rights of all girls and women, including against the practice of female genital mutilation.
"There is no moral, religious or health reason to cut or mutilate any girl or woman. Traditions that demean, dehumanize and injure are human rights violations that must be actively opposed until they are ended."
The United Nations encourages the review of current legislation to ensure that it fully protects the rights of women and girls and that the perpetrators of the crimes are brought to justice.