A rough start in life

There’s been an arrest in an FGM case in the UK, which could result in the first ever prosecution there.

The victim was five weeks old.

Sources say the victim’s age is unprecedented and extensive efforts are being made to gather the evidence needed to bring charges. The barbaric practice — which can involve the removal of all or parts of the labia and clitoris or the sewing up of the vagina — has been illegal in Britain since 1985.

No charges have been brought since then as secrecy and a lack of reporting have hindered police efforts to enforce the law.

Detectives believe evidence about the mutilation of the baby girl could now lead to a breakthrough and have submitted a file to prosecutors. But because the surgery was carried out overseas they are still unsure whether charges can be brought.

Five weeks old.


  1. John Morales says

    Five weeks old.

    Before I write anything more, I want to make it clear that I consider the practice of un-consented ritual mutilation to be abominable.

    OK, at the risk of sounding callous, I think that for the victim, having it done when they are five weeks old is probably a better outcome than having it done during late prepubescent or later.

  2. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ John Morales : You were right – that does sound callous.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    … And Female Genital Mutilation should not be done at all. Not to anyone of any age. Not by any group.

    Some cultural traditions – & aspects of some cultures – just need to be ended ASAP.

    (Yes, as someone noted on another FTB thread a week or three ago it isn’t only Muslims who have FGM but a handful of geographically and cultural closely related Christian or / & other groups do too. Doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean it isn’t mostly Muslims who follow this appalling practice.)

  4. John Morales says

    StevoR @2, do you consider that, when subjected to the same deliberately-inflicted physical trauma, a five-week old infant endures a similar amount of cognitive suffering in addition to the attendant physical suffering and long-term life outomes to, say, a five-year old child?

  5. left0ver1under says

    That kid is going to live a life of pain, to never know a day without it.

    But because the surgery was carried out overseas they are still unsure whether charges can be brought.

    The reason is that under legislation passed in 2003, making it a crime to take or send a girl abroad for genital mutilation, either the victim or the alleged offenders must be UK citizens or permanently resident here.

    A “technicality” is going to be the excuse for not charging someone for child abuse, assault, torture and mutilation of a baby? Forget that nonsense. The US and UK invaded countries to charge people with terrorism who had never set foot in either country. The abusive parent(s) is(are) in the UK. Not to charge them would be telling others, “Have girls and mutilate them before you move to England!”

    With so young a victim, I’m surprised that she survived the abuse. At that age, the body isn’t as strong or resilient as older children, nor is there as much blood in her body to heal the injury, so death might have been the result. Ritualized child abuse is rarely done in clean doctors’ offices, but even doing it there won’t make it “safe” or acceptable:


    Unlike Morales’ mistake above, no, I am not thinking the infant would be better off dead.

  6. John Morales says


    Unlike Morales’ mistake above, no, I am not thinking the infant would be better off dead.


    If that’s what you think I either expressed or intended to express, then I assure you that you have misread me.

    (As an aside, I believe the younger the patient, the better the prognosis for recovery for most trauma)

  7. Silentbob says

    @ John Morales

    It’s not that your observation is incorrect. But it’s like responding to a story about someone being raped while unconscious with, “Well it would have been even worse if they were conscious”.

    That may be true but (1) it gives the impression of minimising what has been done (disclaimers to the contrary notwithstanding), and (2) logical or not, for many people the helplessness of the victim emphasizes the heinousness of the crime.

  8. Silentbob says

    @ 3 StevoR

    … doesn’t mean it isn’t mostly Muslims who follow this appalling practice.

    If we agree that it’s the practice that’s appalling and not “being Muslim”, how is this relevant?

  9. John Morales says

    [meta + final]

    Thanks, Silentbob @7; I don’t dispute either of your enumerated points.

    Anyway, the topic is clearly that hopefully, it may be the case that the authorities in the UK are beginning to take this issue seriously enough to actually enforce the applicable laws and that this is a welcome thing.

    Also, I apologise for the derail due to my hasty comment regarding a third-order issue. My bad.

  10. resident_alien says

    Morales, you’ve got it backwards. For most cases, the earlier in life a serious trauma occurs, the harder it is to work through it. True, the concious memory may be less present or intense, but the effect of the trauma may be even more pronounced. Even pre-natal traumata are possible.

  11. Pen says

    You’ve really got to wonder about parents who would apparently have the procedure done unusually early specifically in order to circumnavigate the law of the country they appear to want to move to. In deciding what to do about it, I’m afraid it really does matter who is a British citizen and/or resident and starting when. Our goal is to avoid, for example, arresting the parents of gay African refugees when they come to visit the children they unfortunately subjected to this procedure in their home country several years ago. And stuff like that.

    The report says the baby may have become a British citizen between the procedure at five weeks and her current age at two months? But her parents weren’t resident in Britain until just now? And are they British? If they were, their child was British at birth. Some of this isn’t making sense yet based on what I know about citizenship and residency in Britain.

  12. AsqJames says


    I don’t think it says the baby’s current age is two months. To me it reads like they’re pretty sure she was under two months when the FGM was done, but the best estimate is she was 5-6 weeks old at the time.

    Here is a “list of offences committed overseas for which a British citizen could be prosecuted in this country.”

    I’m not sure FGM is covered. You could perhaps make a case that it falls under either the sexual offences against children or torture categories, depending on how they are defined. I don’t know if a motive of personal sexual gratification (on the part of the offender) is required for a conviction under the former for example. And a prosecution based on FGM being torture may have implications for the “Global War on Terror” ™ so I can imagine there being political pressure to avoid going down that route.

    On the other hand, some of the criteria for deciding whether or not to apply extra-territorial jurisdiction seem to be very much on point:

    – Where the vulnerability of the victim makes it particularly important to be able to tackle instances of the offence;
    – Where it appears to be in the interests of the standing and reputation of the UK in the international community;
    – Where there is a danger that the offences would otherwise not be justiciable.

    In particular, there are few creatures in nature less vulnerable than a 2 month old human being.

  13. RegrettablyBritish says

    @Asq James

    that list is missing FGM, for some reason. Under the Female Genial Mutilation Act 2003, a person is guilty of the offence as long as the victim (or the perpetrator) is a British national or British citizen.

  14. AsqJames says

    Thanks RB, that’ll teach me for trusting Parliament’s website to be accurate. After googling it, Section 4 of the 2003 act does explicitly add FGM to the list of laws subject to ETJ.

    It’s sad that it has taken 10 years (and thousands of little girls mutilated) for the first serious attempt at a prosecution, and even now it seems the nationality/residency question may prevent it. On the other hand it’s encouraging that the effort is finally being made.

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