LONDON (Reuters) – A British doctor accused of carrying out female genital mutilation on a new mother was acquitted following the country’s first FGM trial.
The doctor, Dhanuson Dharmasena, said FGM was an “abhorrent practice” and he was “extremely relieved” by the verdict. His family – weeping with relief – said he had been made a scapegoat.
The landmark trial took place amid growing public outrage over the authorities’ failure to put anyone on trial for FGM, although the practice has been illegal in Britain for 30 years.
A leading obstetrician branded the prosecution a “ludicrous” travesty of justice which would leave doctors on labour wards terrified of touching women who had been subjected to FGM.
An estimated 137,000 women and girls in Eng-land and Wales have undergone FGM, the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, which can cause serious physical and psychological problems as well as complications in childbirth.
Despite the verdict, anti-FGM campaigners said the trial sent a strong message that FGM was against the law and that the law would in future be enforced.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, later defended her decision to bring the case to trial and said she remained determined to prosecute cases of FGM where there was enough evidence.
The case centred on whether a suture put in by Dharmasena after he delivered the woman’s baby amounted to FGM or was medically necessary.
The woman, known as AB in court, had under-gone FGM as a child in Somalia, when her labia had been sewn together.