A 37-year-old mother has become the first person in the UK to be convicted of female genital mutilation (FGM) in a landmark ruling last week.
The woman, who is originally from Uganda but has lived in the UK for a number of years, was found guilty of cutting her daughter, then aged three, in the summer of 2017.
FGM – Where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed when there is no medical reason to do so – is not sanctioned by any religion and has been illegal in the UK since 1985.
FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behavior, to ensure “pure femininity” and to restrict a woman or girls’ sexuality.
The defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, wept in the dock as she was told by Judge Mrs. Justice Whipple that she would face a “lengthy” jail term.
Medics alerted police to the child’s injuries after treating her at Whipps Cross Hospital, in Leytonstone.
She had “lost a significant amount of blood as a result of the injuries they had delivered and inflicted on her”, jurors were told.
During the trial the mother told investigators that her daughter had climbed to get a biscuit and had “fell on metal and ripped her private parts”.
Prosecutors also said that the defendant had coached her daughter to “lie to the police so she wouldn’t get caught.”
While searching the mother’s home in Walthamstow, police said they found evidence of “witchcraft”.
Prosecutor Caroline Carberry said two cows’ tongues “bound in wire with nails and a blunt knife” were found in a freezer. Police also discovered 40 limes with pieces of paper with names written on them stuffed inside.
The names on the pieces of paper, mainly of the social workers and police officers were to “shut up” and “freeze their mouths” Ms. Carberry said.
Despite having anti-FGM laws since 1985, convictions have been historically difficult to achieve due to both the domestic nature of FGM and the difficulty arising from a sense of family duty preventing children from speaking out.
Hibo Wardere, FGM survivor and campaigner, speaking on the topic said: “This is a practice complete by the loved ones, so that is why it is so hard to convict.”
Responding to the court case, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that FGM was a “medieval practice” and he would “not rest until the perpetrators of this horrific crime are brought to justice.”
Lynette Woodrow, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “We will not hesitate to prosecute those who commit this sickening offence against” a child who “has no power to resist or fight back.”
FGM currently carries a sentence of up to 14 years. The mother is due to be sentenced in March.
According to the NSPCC children’s charity it is estimated that there are 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM in England and Wales.
In the South East of the country there are an estimated 90 women aged between 0 – 14 currently suffering from the practice.
In Brighton and Hove 15 cases were recorded in 2015/16. Brighton and Hove Labour Cllr Emma Daniel speaking at a B&H City Council meeting said that any parent that oversees FGM “must face abuse charges”.
FGM serves to turn women and girls into the “vessels for the sole gratification of their future husbands” she added.