By Ben Thompson
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a practice in which a girl or woman’s external genitalia is partially or totally removed. Though it is most prevalent in African countries such as Sudan and Egypt, it is a global problem that affects 3 million women each year.
In Britain, it has been a criminal offence to perform this ‘operation’ or to aid anybody in carrying it out since 1985. However, it is only very recently that anybody has been convicted under this law.
A 37-year-old mother has been found guilty of mutilating her 3-year-old daughter. Her 43-year-old partner was on trial for the same offence, but received an acquittal. When her verdict was read out in court, the mother from East London wept in the dock.
The anonymous woman was warned of a ‘lengthy sentence’ by Mrs Justice Whipple. As it currently stands, this offence is punishable by 14 years in prison.
This conviction comes after four previous attempts to enforce the law ended in acquittals for the accused.
FGM campaigner Aneeta Prem admitted the process to conviction was difficult – “People are scared to come forward, professionals are scared to come forward to report this. The fact that we have a conviction today is a really historic moment.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid condemned the practice and welcomed the conviction on Twitter:
I welcome this landmark conviction. Female Genital Mutilation is a sickening, depraved, form of child abuse & we will do all we can to ensure all perpetrators are brought to justice https://t.co/Rbb3sbGGEv
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) February 1, 2019
Medics had alerted police after treating the young girl, who had lost a substantial amount of blood due to her injuries. The mother claimed ‘she fell on metal and and it ripped her private parts’.
The mother was born in Uganda, but has been living in the UK for several years. FGM is illegal in both countries.
She will be handed a prison sentence on the 8th March – a sentence that campaigners against the gruesome practice hope will be the first of many.