Britain to charge two men over female genital mutilation

Authorities not doing enough to stop practice, says former DPP

The Whittington Hospital in north London, where  Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena worked. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The Whittington Hospital in north London, where Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena worked. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 01:00

Two men are to be charged in Britain with carrying out illegal female genital mutilation (FGM), the first time such prosecutions have been brought,

despite a chorus of complaints for years.

Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena (31), from Essex, is charged that he repaired FGM that had previously been carried out on a woman, shortly after she had given birth.

Hasan Mohamed (40), is charged with encouraging FGM and a second charge of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring Dr Dharmasena to commit the offence.

Complaining that accurate figures for the number of case were not available, former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer said in January the authorities were not doing enough to stop FGM.

Particularly prevalent among the Somali and Ethiopian communities in Britain, FGM has been a crime there for 30 years.

More than 3,000 FGM cases – where the genitals are cut to reduce women’s sexual pleasure – were reported by hospitals over the last three years. Just 3 per cent of them were reported to the police.

More than 140 alleged incidents have been reported to the police over the last four years, but yesterday’s case, on the back of a campaign led by the Guardian newspaper, is the first time charges have been brought.

More than 100 prosecutions for FGM have taken place in France. Police there monitor airports and other points of access during holiday seasons for “at risk” girls being brought to Britain for FGM.

Victims are reluctant to complain because it would leave their parents open to prosecution, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said, adding that many are bullied into not pressing charges.

Communities ‘go silent’
Cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute, even if victims come forward, say police – since communities “go silent” when detectives investigate.

In some cases, the girls are taken out of Britain for mutilation, making it difficult for police to gather the necessary evidence to bring prosecutions.

The CPS is considering prosecutions in six other cases, including one in which a father mistakenly rang an FGM helpline to make an appointment to circumcise his daughters.

Bristol student Fahma Mohamed last month presented a petition to British education secretary Michael Gove to urge teachers and schools to do more to stop FGM.

From next month, hospitals will be required to record details of the victims, while staff are to be better trained to recognise FGM cases.

Women who have suffered the most extreme forms of FGM – where the clitoris is removed and the genital area stitched – are subjected to appalling pain during childbirth.