Egypt: Forensic Authorities Bringing Justice to Survivors of Violence against Women

Interview with Doctor at the Forensic Medical Authority

10th December 2020 -  Cairo, Egypt
“UNODC has taught us a completely different way of handling patients, changed the understanding and way of treating cases or patients of violence against women in general. I learned not to be a judgmental person and to never judge the patient with my own personal viewpoint.”
The Egyptian Forensic Medicine Authority (FMA) is responsible, amongst its many duties, to examine women who report a form of violent or sexual assault to the police. The availability and use of quality forensic science services, data and information is an essential element supporting the operational work of law enforcement, effective and fair criminal justice systems, and evidence-based policymaking.
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
Within the framework of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, UNODC Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (ROMENA) spoke with Dr. Pansee Abdel Fattah, Forensic Doctor at the FMA who is responsible to carry out examinations for women survivors of VAW.
Q: How have UNODC’s interventions changed your own daily work on violence against women?
A: “UNODC has taught us a completely different way of handling patients, changed the understanding and way of treating cases or patients of violence against women in general. I learned not to be a judgmental person and to never judge the patient with my own personal viewpoint. I received technical training on using specialized devices to examine patients who are victims of sexual assault – such as the colposcopy device. I learned how to deal with the patients and how to provide the survivor with the needed trust and safety to feel reassured and allows me to examine her and provide her with the support she needs.”
Q: What has changed in your institution since UNODC provided support on prevention or responses to violence against women?
A: “Based on the training programmes, including a training programme that I have personally participated in, where some doctors have traveled to Manchester and got trained in Saint Mary Centre, which is a specialized sexual assault referral centre, on how to deal with patients and how to provide them with psychological and medical support.
There were also a lot of other training programmes that were developed by UNODC such as the Trainer of Trainers (ToT) programme, which enabled several doctors to become leaders and well-trained specialists within various Government bodies. These training within the different entities made things work in one circle which led to decreasing the time period between the assault and the forensic examination on the case.
Beyond the training courses offered by UNODC, which was provided over the span of the past years, we reached that - by the end of  2018 - that all forensic doctors in the country were qualified and trained to handle cases of sexual assault and cases of violence against women and girls.  There was also this manual prepared by UNODC which helped them deal with such cases. 
Also, UNODC provided us with specialized clinics for the examination of sexual assault cases and equipment - such as the colposcopy device used in the examination of sexual assault cases, the necessary drug therapy/ medication – such as the emergency contraception pills and medicine for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), which was a huge and essential step for the all patients especially for cases that come for examination within recent dates from the assault incidents.”
Q: What are the key lessons about violence against women that you have learned with the support of UNODC?
A: “UNODC’s approach has taught us to handle cases of violence against women and girls in a holistic way. Beyond the criminal and forensic aspect that is the basis of our work, it also added the psychological and therapeutic perspective. This led to us creating specialized clinics for psychological support that helps victims of sexual assault in specific and victims of violence against women and girls in general…at all different ages. And these cases can now receive inclusive psychological support that helps them reintegrate into society. Using the specialized equipment that UNODC provided to us, such as the colposcopy device. Increased the number of our accurate evidence conclusions of sexual assault and this helped us bring more and more perpetrators to justice.”
Through its mandate, UNODC works to support the Member States to reach the targets under Sustainable Development Goal 5 to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” A key pillar of such efforts is enhancing Member States’ responses to VAW by developing institutional and professional capacities relevant to respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the rights of women and girls. This support was provided to UNODC as part of the project “Improving the Criminal Justice Response to Violence against Women in Egypt.” This interview is part of a series of talks with institutions leading action to address VAW&G in Egypt.
Efforts covered in this interview were made possible through the generous support of the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (USINL).
For more information:
Joint UN Agency Campaign on VAW during COVID19 with UNODC Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Nadia Murad.
10 years of UNODC support on Gender-Based Violence
16 Days of Activism