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Monday, April 21, 2014
FGM: first suspects to be charged appear in court
Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena and Hasan Mohamed face charges brought under Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003)
The Guardian, Two men have appeared in court for the first female genital mutilation (FGM) prosecution in the UK. Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, 31, from Whittington hospital, north London, and Hasan Mohamed, 40, who is not a medical professional, face the first charges brought under the Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003) in the landmark case.
Dharmasena is accused of carrying out the procedure on a woman after she had given birth in November 2012. It is alleged that he repaired the FGM that had previously been carried out on the patient, after being encouraged and helped by Mohamed.
Lawyers defending both men told Westminster magistrates court that the pair would plead not guilty. Dharmasena, wearing a grey suit, spoke only to confirm his name and address. Mohamed, wearing a grey hooded top and a scarf around his neck, gave his name. His address was not read out in court. Both men were granted unconditional bail and are next due to appear at Southwark crown court on 2 May.
Carrying out FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, but there has yet to be a prosecution. In a pre-trial statement, the director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "It was alleged that following a patient giving birth in November 2012, a doctor at the Whittington hospital in London, repaired FGM that had previously been performed on the patient, allegedly carrying out FGM himself."
FGM has come under the spotlight in recent months after activists stepped up their campaign against it. Earlier this month education secretary Michael Gove wrote to all headteachers after a Guardian-backed petition, which called for education to be put at the heart of tackling the practice, attracted more than 230,000 signatures. Gove sent a letter to all headteachers in England alerting them to guidelines designed to keep children safe, which includes guidance on FGM.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said Gove would keep up pressure on schools by flagging up the dangers of FGM again in his annual "back to school" letter in September.
The Guardian-backed campaign, led by 17-year-old Bristol schoolgirl Fahma Mohamed, was supported by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, as well as signatories from around the globe.
FGM is believed to affect up to 140 million women worldwide and an estimated 66,000 women in the UK, with up to 24,000 girls under 15 believed to be at risk.