Campaigners against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK have welcomed the decision by the Crime Prosecution Service (CPS) to charge the first two people in the country since the practice was outlawed in 1985.
Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena 31 was charged with carrying out the operation on an unnamed woman in 2012 shortly after she gave birth at the Whittington Hospital Islington in North London, where he worked. Hasan Mohamed 40, was charged with helping Dr Dharmasena to carry out the operation. Both men will appear in court on April 15 2014 and face up to fourteen years in prison if found guilty. The CPS reportedly dropped four other cases for insufficient evidence.
Reports say approximately 4000 FGM operations have been carried out in the UK since 2009 while some parents now send their girl children abroad for them to be cut off. Most of the cases occur in immigrant communities and girl victims are eiher too shy to report or do not want to get their close relatives involved with the police and possible imprisonment.
Most of the girls involved are from Africa and Middle East or are the children born of parents from Africa.
Dr Kamdem Seraphin, lecturer in the School of Oriental and African Studies SOAS told journalists that there was no reason for some African parents to continue the practice on the basis of respecting archaic traditions. “ The role of women in Africa, the place that women occupy in society in Africa is no longer confining her to whichever arena was at the beginning, could have justified FGM in those days. To think that today a woman can be a doctor, and can fulfill all functions and we have female presidents in Africa today. To still see a woman in that role that she could still be restrained in terms of her freedom…is simply wrong”.
According to the WHO, more than 125 girls and women in Africa and middle East where the practice is most prevalent have undergone FGM. Some muslim groups have condemned the practice refusing that it is not enshrined in muslim religious practice.
The World Health Organization defines FGM or female circumcision as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. The procedure varies widely in different communities and can be carried out from where a girl child is only a few weeks old or when they become teenagers.
Effects on girls/women can include anything from bleeding, infections, urinary problems and in extreme cases, death.