Ugandan woman faces 14 yrs jail term after becoming the first to be convicted for FGM in U.K
London, Feb. 3, 2019 (AltAfrica)-United kingdom has sent a strong warning to African families living in the country that the practice of Female Genital Mutilation FGM, in the country would be met with the strongest possible punishment under the UK law
This is after a 37-year-old Ugandan woman became the first ever person to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the U.K.
The mother of three and her Ghanaian partner, 43, both from Walthamstow, east London, were accused of cutting their daughter over the 2017 summer bank holiday.
Although she denied the charges, she was found guilty and will be sentenced on March 8. Her partner was acquitted of all charges and her daughter was placed with another family
The case was first reported to the police after doctors confirmed that her injuries were consistent with being cut by scalpel. The parents had claimed that the victim got her injuries when she fell and cut herself on a kitchen cupboard as she was reaching for a biscuit tin.
The victim, however, told a foster carer that she had been held down and cut, as reported by the CNN.
Under the U.K. law, perpetrators of FGM face a prison term of not more than 14 years.
Many women rights groups have welcomed the conviction, stating the defendants should be brought to justice and that they will continue doing what they can to protect girls.
FGM is prevalent practice in many African countries but it has found its way to the African diaspora, demanding for a globalized approach to the harmful practice.
Organisations within and out of Africa such as The Girl Generation have been instrumental in addressing the impact of FGM including endangering the lives of more than 200m women in the world who have undergone the cut.
This conviction will help pave way to help the 68 million girls who are at risk of FGM by 2030.
Leethen Bartholomew, the head of the National FGM Centre, said he hoped grassroots campaign groups would be given more support to train professionals.
“We know that FGM happens here in the UK and we didn’t need a conviction to prove that,” he said. “There is still a lack of services for survivors of FGM,” he said, adding that the victim in the case must be given continual support.
Charlotte Proudman, a leading barrister who specialises in FGM, told the Guardian: “The conviction is hugely significant, securing justice for the girl but also in sending a strong message that this crime will not be tolerated.”
She questioned if health workers were fulfilling their mandatory reporting duties, and highlighted a legal loophole that meant professionals only had to report cases in which children had already undergone FGM, rather than those also deemed to be at risk.
Leyla Hussein, a social activist and survivor of FGM, said she had mixed emotions about the conviction.
“We are sending out a strong message that children now come first,” she said. “However, the sad thing is we could have helped that mother. That could have easily been me because 17 years ago I did not understand that FGM was wrong.”
Hussein, who was born in Somalia and later emigrated to the UK, said it was not until she was 21 and her own daughter was two months old that a practice nurse raised the issue of her FGM.
“It’s positive this girl got justice but as an FGM survivor I can’t help thinking the system failed her. Her mother has committed a crime and we need to be honest about that. But she could have been informed about FGM through her GP or midwife.”