Doctor accused of female genital mutilation

Whittington Hospital in London. Picture: PA Wire
Whittington Hospital in London. Picture: PA Wire
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A DOCTOR has become the first person to be charged in the UK for allegedly carrying out female genital mutilation.

Dr Dhanoun Dharmasena, 31, has been accused of carrying out the illegal procedure in London in November 2012, on a patient who had just given birth.

A second man, Hasan Mohamed, 40, is charged with intentionally encouraging female genital mutilation.

The men are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates court next month. They are the first people to be prosecuted under the Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2003.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) traditionally involves the full or partial removal of young girls’ genitals for non-medical reasons, such as improving marriage prospects.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said yesterday: “The Crown Prosecution Service was asked to consider evidence in relation to this allegation of female genital mutilation by the Metropolitan Police Service.

“It was alleged, 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 been a criminal offence since 1985, and in 2003 the maximum sentence was increased from five to 14 years in prison.

An estimated 66,000 women in the UK have been mutilated and more than 20,000 girls under 15 are thought to be at risk of the practice, which is classed as torture by the UN.

Earlier this month, figures suggested that since 2009, nearly 4,000 women and girls had been treated at London hospitals after undergoing the procedure.

Scottish government figures from last year revealed that from 1997-2011, 2,403 girls were born in Scotland to a mother from an FGM-practising country.

Police Scotland dealt with fewer than ten cases in 2013, none of which has resulted in a referral to the procurator-fiscal.

Dignity Alert and Research Forum, an organisation working to end violence against women and children in Scotland and Eastern Africa, estimated that in 2009 there were 3,000 women living in Scotland who had been cut. Since then, they say, the figures have increased.

A DARF spokeswoman said: “The hard thing to do is to get someone to report FGM cases to the police. There is a lot of stigma about speaking out against your own community, maybe your parents, grandparents or aunts or uncles.

“We do understand why it is a very hard area to get a prosecution.”

She added that education was the way forward.

“There is a lack of trained professionals in Scotland and England who know what to look out for – doctors, health workers, teachers – they don’t know what the signs are,” she said. “That needs to change.”