Justice is served

Mother, midwife and sheikh guilty in Australia’s first genital mutilation trial

On Thursday, a jury found a midwife as well as the mother of two little girls guilty of mutilating the sisters’ clitorises during ceremonies held in Wollongong, south of Sydney, between October 2009 and August 2012. A sheikh, Shabbir Mohammedbhai Vaziri, was found guilty of being an accessory after the fact. All three were members of the same small Shia muslim sect, the Dawoodi Bohras.

The sisters, who were given the pseudonyms C1 and C2 by the court to protect their identities, were interviewed by a school social worker in August 2012, after police received reports of female genital mutilation within the sect. C1, who is now 11, said that when she was about seven she went with her mother to a house in Wollongong, where the midwife laid her on a bed and carried out a procedure known as “khatna,” which involved a “little cut down there.” C2, the younger sister, told police similar details, saying she was hurt on “the bottom.”

The police officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Sergeant Eugene Stek, told the court he was concerned that some or all of the offenders would encourage fellow members of their community to hide other instances of female genital mutilation if allowed back into the community. New South Wales Supreme Court judge Justice Peter Johnson, however, allowed the trio to remain on bail subject to strict conditions, including the surrendering of their passports and other travel documents. They will be sentenced on February 5.

Before taking evidence from the 9-year-old witness dubbed C2, Justice Johnson removed his horsehair wig and asked the three barristers acting in the trial to do the same. “I don’t think it will have a magical effect, but I hope it will make us look a little more human,” Justice Johnson told the jury.

Read the full story at the Sydney Morning Herald.


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