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Thirteen-Year-Old Egyptian Girl Dies During Female Circumcision

A 13-year-old Egyptian girl has died during a circumcision operation, two months after the death of another girl prompted health officials to ban the widespread traditional procedure, local media said Saturday.

The latest death was uncovered when Karima Rahim Massoud's father applied for a death certificate Friday, insisting his daughter had died from natural causes, the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Saturday. The father has been referred to the state prosecutor.

The doctor involved also has been referred to the prosecutor and his clinic in rural Gharbiyah province has been closed down, state-owned al-Gomhoria daily reported.

The reports could not be immediately confirmed as judicial authorities were not available for comment Saturday.

In June, the death of 12-year-old Badour Shaker during a circumcision operation in the southern town of Maghagh sparked a public outcry, prompting the government to officially ban hospitals from performing female circumcisions.

The Egyptian Health Ministry said violators would be punished, but did not specify the penalty. The ban is not as enforceable as a law, which requires passage in the national legislature.

The procedure, which many refer to as female genital mutilation, usually involves the removal of the clitoris and other parts of female genitalia. Advocates say it tames a girl's sexual desire and maintains her honor. Opponents say girls can bleed to death, suffer chronic urinary infections and have life-threatening complications in childbirth as a result.

It is practiced by Muslims and Christians alike and is deeply rooted in the Nile Valley region and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Yemen and Oman.

While top clerics insist the practice has nothing to do with Islam, parents, especially in rural villages and Cairo slums, believe they are helping their daughters by protecting their virginity before marriage.

A 2003 survey by UNICEF said that 97 percent of married women in Egypt have undergone genital mutilation. A recent study by Egypt's Ministry of Health and Population found that only half of all girls between the age of 10-18 years have been circumcised.