QATAR: Genital mutilation punished for the first time in US
|Judge Richard Winegarden in Lawrenceville, Georgia, dismissed prosecutors’ request for a 40-year sentence as too harsh, noting the cultural sensitivities and remarking that Adem had prayed before cutting his daughter, the Post reported.|
“This is not a crime that fits into any well-defined category,” Winegarden was quoted as saying. “There’s no indication that the defendant committed the crime out of greed or anger. I don’t think this is going to happen again.”
Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is a practice carried out in some African, Muslim and Asian cultures to limit women’s enjoyment of sex and preserve evidence of their virginity.
In extremely wide cuts around the vagina, the wounds are sewn shut with only enough room for entry by a penis, and must be cut open to deliver babies. Many women die from infection either after the mutilation or childbirth, and those who survive often suffer serious internal problems all their lives.
Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of the activist organisation Equality Now, said Winegarden’s remarks reflected a popular misconception that genital mutilation is a “cultural” matter.
“Culture is never an excuse for a human rights violation or for doing egregious harm to any human being,” she said in a telephone interview from New York.
Adem’s sentencing represents the first documented case and conviction for genital mutilation in the US, Equality Now said.
US Congress passed a federal law against the practice in 1996, and several state legislatures have done the same, including Georgia last year. No other known cases have been brought at either level.
The new Georgia law could not be applied retroactively to the Adem case, which meant local prosecutors used long-standing laws against child cruelty and aggravated battery to bring a conviction, Bien-Aime said.
The case came to prosecutor’s attention after the little girl’s mother realised her child had been mutilated, about two years after the fact, Bien-Aime said. The mother was by then in the middle of divorce proceedings.
“The child’s behaviour became more and more erratic,” Bien-Aime said. Through referral from her paediatrician to a paediatric specialist, the injury was confirmed and reported to police.
Twenty-eight countries in Africa, where circumcision has been carried out by rusty knives and shards of glass as a coming-of-age ritual for adolescent girls, now forbid genital mutilation, Bien-Aime said.
In fact, some of the African countries are more enlightened on the subject than long-separated immigrant groups in the US, Bien-Aime said.
In the Georgia case, the father wept throughout the trial and proclaimed his innocence even after his sentencing, the Daily Post reported.
“I love my daughter, and I always wish the best for my daughter,” he was quoted as saying. – DPA