Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Girls & Women

3-Year-Old Girl in London Allegedly Subjected to FGM by 'Witch'

Editor's note: This story contains sensitive details. 

By Emma Batha

LONDON, Jan 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — A three-year-old girl was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) by a "witch" as her parents held her down at her London home, a court heard on Wednesday.

The injuries came to light when her parents rushed her to hospital for surgery following heavy bleeding, the jury heard. Doctors discovered several cuts to her genitals.

Take Action: Help Global Citizen #LevelTheLaw to End Female Genital Mutilation

Prosecutor Caroline Carberry said the mother later performed witchcraft spells — one involving cow tongues with nails and a knife embedded in them — to try to silence investigators and the director of public prosecutions (DPP).

The father, 43, and mother, 37, who cannot be named for legal reasons, deny two charges each of FGM and failing to protect a girl from the risk of FGM on August 28, 2017.

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

The jury at the Central Criminal Court heard that the girl's parents told police their daughter had hurt herself after falling on a cupboard door while climbing up to get a biscuit.

But Carberry said experts had "comprehensively rejected" the explanation.

When the girl was later moved to foster care she told her carer her parents' story was wrong and that she had been cut.

"She said, 'My mum and dad hold me, the lady she cut me. Blood everywhere'," Carberry said.

The girl told police her parents called the woman a "witch."

Police found blood-soaked towels at the girl's east London home and a blue princess dress which appeared to have blood stains.

Obstetrician Bashier Dawlatly, who operated on the girl, said there was no bruising consistent with an impact injury.

"The lack of bruising ... made him suspect that this was ... female genital mutilation. He was of the opinion that a sharp implement was used ... most probably a scalpel," Carberry said.

Dawlatly told the court he had seen many cases of botched FGM in children while practising in his native Sudan before moving to Britain.

Carberry said that when the hospital alerted police, the girl's mother phoned her father and asked him to conduct a spell to silence doctors and police by placing their names in a substance called allum.

Related Stories Nov. 23, 2018 Britain Just Made the World’s Largest Ever Investment to End FGM Worldwide Feb. 6, 2018 FGM Happens in the UK, But Is Obscured by a Very British Silence Jan. 25, 2018 8 Countries Where FGM Has Affected Over 80% of Women

Police searches of the mother's home in December 2017 uncovered a number of other spells, the jury heard.

In the freezer were two cow tongues bound with wire with nails and a knife embedded in them, Carberry said. They also found 40 limes and other fruit which, when opened, contained the names of police officers, a social worker, and the DPP.

"These people were to 'shut up' and 'freeze their mouths'," Carberry said.

The court heard the father comes from Ghana and the mother from Uganda. Both countries have banned FGM.

The father, a former telecoms engineer, told police he was a Muslim and did not believe in witchcraft. The mother told investigators she had never heard of FGM.

The case continues.

(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha. Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)