A 37-year-old woman on Friday became the first person in the UK to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM) over an assault on her 3-year-old daughter.
The Ugandan woman was convicted following a trial at London’s Old Bailey during which she pleaded not guilty.
Her Ghanaian partner was acquitted of FGM and of failing to protect his daughter from the risk of FGM.
The UK’s Serious Crime Act defines FGM as involving procedures that include the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
It has been a specific criminal offence in the UK since 1985 but until now no one had been convicted.
The landmark trial heard how the couple’s daughter, now aged 4, underwent emergency surgery in east London in 2017 after her mother placed a call to emergency services, saying the toddler had climbed to get a biscuit and fell onto a kitchen cupboard door with a metal strip.
Doctors found cuts to the girl’s genitalia, which experts said had been made with a sharp implement such as a scalpel and could not be explained by a fall.
The mother performed dozens of witchcraft spells to try to silence investigators and the director of public prosecutions, the court heard.
NGO Equality Now, which works to protect the rights of women and girls around the world, welcomed the verdict.
“As critical as it is to have a law against FGM, so is the willingness to enforce it. This case signals a commitment by the authorities to address FGM as a serious child abuse issue,” the group’s European director, Jacqui Hunt, said.
“The guilty verdict sends a clear signal that FGM is illegal and will not be tolerated in the UK. This message is key to reducing the number of women and girls who are cut, with the ultimate aim being prevention and protection so that all forms of FGM are eradicated.”
London’s Metropolitan Police said it hoped the conviction would send a “clear message” that it would thoroughly investigate and pursue prosecutions in FGM cases.
“FGM remains a grave concern shared by police and other agencies which safeguard children, and we are determined to amplify our efforts to stop FGM, and build on this successful prosecution to safeguard more young people at risk,” it said.