The latest attempt to secure the UK’s first prosecution for female genital mutilation (FGM) has failed, with a West African father cleared of using the practice to “punish” his young daughter.
The prosecution was only the second brought under FGM legislation since it was introduced 33 years ago, in 1985. Not a single person has been found guilty of the crime in Britain, despite thousands of cases logged annually, and hundreds of successful prosecutions in France.
The man, 50, was alleged during a nine-day trial to have twice recruited someone to cut the girl with a razor blade at their home in south London between 2010 and 2013. The identity of the cutter had been forgotten, but the prosecution said the father had overseen and “egg[ed] on” the abuse.
Female Genital Mutilation is a "nuanced" crime 😡 https://t.co/jb8qKd3cCJ
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) January 19, 2018
The defendant, however, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said the crimes were fabricated after an acrimonious divorce and claimed his wife had threatened to destroy his life and had turned the children against him.
Kate Bex QC, for the defence, said FGM was “predominantly perpetrated by female cutters on women” for the purposes of “purification, honour and social acceptance”, the Press Association reports.
The children had been “susceptible to their mother’s influence” after the divorce and “at the expense of their relationship with their father” she had “rewritten their history”, it was claimed.
The defendant insisted he loved his children, adding: “I have never used any implement on any of my children. I have never used my hand to hit them.”
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 25, 2014
Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre, commented: “While we respect the decision of the jury, it is important to remember that someone did carry out female genital mutilation on the victim almost a decade ago.
“The effects of FGM have a lifelong impact on survivors, both physically and psychologically, so it is vital [that] support is in place for her for as long as she needs it.”
Last year, more than 5,000 new cases of FGM were recorded in the UK, and around 9,000 women sought National Health Service (NHS) help because of the practice.
The figure means there are around 14 new cases every day, and a third of the women and girls seeking help were born in Somalia, according to the NHS numbers.