ETHIOPIA: Ethiopians protest US jailing for genital mutilation

November 20, 2006

ADDIS ABABA --  Hundreds of Ethiopians took to the streets of the capital Saturday to protest against the landmark conviction by a US court of an Ethiopian man for sexually mutilating his two-year-old daughter with scissors.

Organizers said that some 2,000 people turned out in Addis Ababa for a march in support of Khalid Adem, a 31-year-old Ethiopian immigrant who was convicted of female genital mutilation by a court in the southern US state of Georgia.

Adem was sentenced November 1 to 10 years in prison for aggravated battery and cruelty to children for the 2001 crime, which was not discovered for two years until the mother took her daughter to a doctor.

"We are protesting against the verdict, we believe it is not justice, there was no evidence," said Adem's brother, Adel Adem, who organized the protest to demand his immediate release from prison. "It is a false accusation, the jury was not fair," he said.

"We think that he is innocent. His sister and his niece are not circumcised. My brother is against circumcision, and our family, too."

Adem's family joined a chorus of condemnation, saying that their son was framed by a marriage gone sour.

"Khalid [Adem] is innocent! The fact that his little daughter is circumcised does not prove his guilt.

"This was just a nasty divorce fight that ended up in Khalid being framed by his wife for something he didn't commit. It's all about hate and revenge," the family said in a statement.

"Khalid came from a metropolitan city - he does not fit the profile of someone who would hold such a belief in this kind of practice and execute it on his own daughter," the statement added.

"Khalid is an open-minded person who has embraced and nurtured other cultures. He had married a non-Ethiopian and a non-Muslim, someone who doesn't share his culture and religion ... If Khalid believed in FGM [female genital mutilation] this should have been a discussion brought up before their marriage," it added.

Adem had faced a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and his conviction represented the first case of female genital mutilation in the United States.

The practice, which involves the full or partial removal of the clitoris, is common in many parts of Africa and more than 100 million woman are believed to have been subjected to it in 28 African nations from Senegal to Somalia.

Sexual mutilation is illegal in 16 US states and since 1997 has been prohibited by federal law for people under 18 years of age.

However, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 160,000 women have undergone sexual mutilation in the United States, including more than 50,000 minors.

SOURCE: Middle East News
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