A London mother became the first person to be successfully prosecuted for female genital mutilation in Britain when she was convicted Friday of harming her 3-year-old daughter.
The 37-year-old Ugandan woman had denied guilt and claimed her daughter suffered an accidental injury. Jurors at London’s Central Criminal Court concluded the girl had been cut deliberately.
The mother isn’t being named to protect her child’s identity. The jury acquitted the girl’s father, a 43-year-old man from Ghana.
The criminal case started after the parents made a call in August 2017 requesting emergency assistance. Hospital medics were suspicious of what they found when they examined the 3-year-old.
London police said that while investigating, officers found two cows’ tongues pierced with nails and other items they believed were related to witchcraft at the woman’s home. They said notes telling police and social workers to “shut up” and “freeze your mouth” also were found during the search. .
Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector Ian Baker said the girl “was subjected to horrific abuse” but made a good recovery and now lived with another family.
Judge Philippa Whipple said a lengthy prison term is in store at the woman’s March 8 sentencing. She faces a maximum sentence of 14 years.
Female genital mutilation — intentionally altering or injuring 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.
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 lead officer on FGM, said the case showed that “FGM is still happening across London and the U.K., behind a cloak of secrecy” in “communities that can be quite closed.”
He said that “an issue around honor and shame” also was a crime involving families was a reason so few cases had come to court.
“People do not necessarily want to see their mums go to prison,” Davis said. “It’s a real challenge for people to stand up and talk about what’s happening in communities when it might mean they face ostracization.”