LONDON (AP) — A London mother became the first person to be successfully prosecuted for female genital mutilation in Britain when she was found guilty Friday of harming her 3-year-old daughter.
The 37-year-old Ugandan woman denied her guilt, claiming her daughter suffered an accidental injury. Jurors at London’s Central Criminal Court concluded that the girl had been deliberately cut.
The mother is not named to protect the identity of her son. The jury acquitted the girl’s father, a 43-year-old man from Ghana.
Police launched an investigation after the girl’s parents rushed her to hospital on August 28, 2017, after severe bleeding and doctors found three cuts on her genitals.
In the months that followed, the mother performed dozens of witchcraft spells, two of which involved nail-embedded cow’s tongues, to try to silence investigators and the director of public prosecution.
During the trial, the 37-year-old mother told the Central London Criminal Court that her daughter had injured herself when she fell from the kitchen worktop in their east London flat.
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But the girl told the police that a “witch” had held her and cut her. Her older brother then wrote a letter to the police saying that her mother had cut her off.
The court heard that the mother resorted to witchcraft to try to stop police investigations after her arrest.
In addition to the cow’s tongues, police found 40 lemons in a freezer at his home containing the names of the people involved in the case with messages such as “I’m freezing your mouth” and “I’m freezing you out of my life.”
An FGM expert said the practice was not related to witchcraft.
However, the jury heard that the mother had sought the help of a “prophet” to “cleanse” her daughter, through an online contact in Nigeria. The mother, a former caregiver, said she did not come from an ethnic group that practiced female genital mutilation and that she was not given any reason in court.
Metropolitan Police Chief Inspector of Detectives Ian Baker said the girl “was subjected to horrific abuse” but made a good recovery and was now living with another family.
Judge Philippa Whipple said a lengthy prison term is expected at the woman’s sentencing on March 8. She faces a maximum sentence of 14 years.
It’s a real challenge for people to stand up and talk about what’s going on.
Female genital mutilation (intentionally altering or injuring the female genital organs for non-medical reasons) has been a crime in Britain since 1985. But there have only been a handful of prosecutions, and this is the first to result in a conviction.
An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM, affecting diaspora communities in many countries, including Somalia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt.
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 million girls and women have been affected in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where the practice is concentrated.
Inspector Allen Davis, the Metropolitan Police’s chief FGM officer, said the case showed that “FGM is still happening in London and the UK, behind a cloak of secrecy” in “communities that can be quite closed. “.
He said that “a problem related to honor and shame” was also a crime that involved families and was the reason why so few cases had reached the courts.
“People don’t necessarily want to see their mothers go to prison,” Davis said. “It’s a real challenge for people to stand up and talk about what’s happening in communities when that could mean they face ostracism.”