March 12, 2018 / 7:02 PM / in 3 months

London lawyer accused of forcing daughter to undergo female genital mutilation

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A solicitor forced his eldest daughter to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) twice at the family’s London home as a “punishment”, a court heard on Monday.

The girl was nine when someone came to their home and cut her with a razor blade as she lay in the hallway, the jury heard. The girl, now 16, was cut again in similar circumstances some time after the wound had healed, the court was told.

“This was not apparently (done) out of any cultural or family reason, but more - at least as she understood it - in the way of a punishment,” prosecutor Mark Heywood told the Central Criminal Court.

The 50-year-old defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has denied two charges of FGM between 2010 and 2013 and two alternative charges of wounding with intent. He denies another three counts of child cruelty between 2009 and 2016.

FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but there has never been a successful prosecution.

Heywood said the defendant had someone come to the house and cut his daughter “repeatedly in a series of deliberate actions, causing serious injury to her small body in the area of her vagina”.

The girl could not remember who had cut her, but said her father was “egging them on”, the court heard.

“She was not given medicine or pain killers. She begged for them to stop. It bled a lot,” Heywood said.

Heywood said the girl described feeling “really deep cuts inside” and was “too scared” to look at what had happened afterwards.

A gynaecologist who examined the girl last year said there was evidence of scarring consistent with her account.

Heywood said the father was sometimes “harsh and cruel” and hit his children with a cane.

The court heard the marriage of the defendant and his wife - both originally from West Africa - had collapsed.

Defence counsel Kate Bex told the jury the defendant was a devout Roman Catholic, who considered himself a “loving, caring father” and he believed the allegations were fabrications arising from “a very acrimonious divorce”.

Bex said the defendant would argue FGM was predominantly perpetrated by female cutters out of superstitious beliefs and that it was done to preserve a girl’s chastity or ensure social acceptance - not as a punishment.

The case continues on Tuesday.

Reporting by Emma Batha; Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.

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