In a crime that has sent shockwaves across the region, a four-year-old girl was tortured to death by member(s) of her own family in the Egyptian town of Shirbin.
People have been closely following the tragic story of the victim, identified by her first name Jana, with many conflicting reports circulating on social media.
The public prosecutor in charge of the case, Hamada Al-Sawi, has released a statement clarifying the details of the crime and updating the public of the status of the legal proceedings. In response to reports of the victim being raped by her maternal uncle, Al-Sawi denied the allegations and called upon citizens to refrain from sharing unconfirmed information.
According to the statement released by the public prosecutor and shared by RT, Jana was taken to the hospital where doctors documented wounds across her body and burns in her private parts. Her case was so critical that doctors decided to amputate her leg due to gangrene infection (a condition that occurs when body tissue dies) after it was broken and left untreated for too long.
Over the past week, photos of Jana lying on a hospital bed with bruises and scars all over her body have been making the rounds online. Despite efforts to revive her, Jana lost her life on Saturday.
Initial media reports suggested that Jana's uncle had raped her, while her grandmother burned her genital organs to "confuse doctors" and cover up her son's crime. However, the public prosecutor claimed forensic doctors have not found evidence of sexual assault.
Forensic reports confirmed Jana had been physically abused on a regular basis, leading to a failure of her body's vital functions and her subsequent death.
Jana and her 6-year-old sister, Amani, both lived with their maternal grandmother, who was granted custody over the girls following their parents' divorce. The 41-year-old grandmother, Safa Abdulfattah Abdullatif, has confessed to beating and burning both her granddaughters "to discipline them." Abdullatif has thus been arrested and is now set to stand trial.
According to the primary medical report, "[Jana's] reproductive system was completely mutilated after the grandmother ironed it using a sharp machine to punish her for urinating involuntarily." However, Jana's father insists her private parts were mutilated to conceal evidence of sexual assault.
Amani will now be transferred to a child welfare facility in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
In the aftermath of Jana's murder, Member of Parliament Alaa Abed, who heads parliament's human rights committee, announced plans to propose substantial amendments to laws pertaining to child custody and personal status affairs. This comes as the country faces an alarming rate of child abuse.
"Many children in Egypt are being subjected to violence at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and nurture them," a 2015 UNICEF report confirmed. "What's more, this violence – some of it extreme – is too often condoned and normalized by the adult perpetrators and even by the children themselves."
The study found that around two-thirds of the children in the areas covered in the study (Cairo, Alexandria, and Assiut) were victims of physical violence and 78 percent were victims of emotional violence. The study also revealed the high number of victims of female genital mutilation/cutting, as well as the fact that children and adults largely consider violence against children as an acceptable means of discipline.
In 2005, Egypt launched a hotline to help victims and allies report cases of child abuse. "It provides protection from violence, abuse, and neglect all over the country within the framework of a real partnership with the concerned ministries and social community working in this field," according to the website. However, activists believe the hotline has not led to concrete change.