Reuters International

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt has approved a law that will increase jail terms for those who perform female circumcisions, raising the maximum sentence to seven years from two, according to the state's official gazette on Wednesday.

Genital cutting of girls, often referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM) or circumcision, is banned in Egypt but the practice remains common as a rite of passage and is often viewed as a way to protect their chastity.

More than nine in 10 women and girls aged 15 to 49 in Egypt have undergone FGM, but the number has declined in recent years, according to data collected by the United Nations.

Female genital cutting is performed on both Muslim and Christian girls in Egypt and Sudan, but is rare elsewhere in the Arab world. It is also common in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The new law stipulates jail sentences of between five and seven years for doctors who perform the operation and one to three for parents who order it.

Egypt's parliament passed the bill on increased sentences in August, but it required presidential approval to come into law.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Andrew Roche)


 Reuters International