The doctor sewed her back up

The first prosecution of FGM in the UK is happening at Southwark Crown Court.

A British doctor performed female genital mutilation on a young mother after she gave birth in hospital, a court has heard.

Dhanuson Dharmasena, 32, is accused of carrying out the illegal procedure at the Whittington Hospital in north London.

The junior registrar, of Ilford, Essex, denies the charge in what is the first prosecution of its kind in the UK.

A second man, Hasan Mohamed, 41, denies encouraging and abetting the offence.

The mother-of-two, who cannot be identified, first underwent FGM aged six in Somalia, London’s Southwark Crown Court heard.

She was 24 and living in Britain when she give birth to her first child in November 2012.

The court heard that during labour, her FGM stitches were torn and Dr Dharmasena, a junior registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology, sewed her back up in a procedure that amounted to FGM.

The prosecution alleges the doctor did so at Mr Mohamed’s “insistence or encouragement”.

Confusingly, the BBC neglects to tell us what Mr Mohamed was doing there and why the doctor paid any attention to him. Is he the woman’s husband, father, brother, imam, block captain? Whoever he is, if he was insisting the doctor re-mutilate the patient, that’s…gross.

The hospital trust launched an investigation into the incident within a few weeks.

In a statement, Dr Dharmasena said he had carried out the procedure because he thought the woman wanted him to. He also said Mr Mohamed had urged him to do so.

He said: “At no point in time did I intentionally or deliberately want to cause any harm to the patient. I had obeyed all of the patient’s wishes.”

Hospitals must have clear rules in place by this time. It doesn’t seem possible that a doctor could just not know that it’s not ok to sew a woman’s genitalia closed.


  1. Anne Fenwick says

    I must admit, I’m confused by this one. Presumably, the birth caused a tear, which is fairly common even without prior fgm. To get prosecuted, he must have gone much further than repairing the damage. Extra tightening stitches I’m guessing? It used to be a horrifically common practice. Hopefully no more, but it’s interesting that it may have become prosecutable as fgm. Does anyone know what actually happened?

  2. says

    Well I’m assuming the birth caused a tear in the infibulation – which of course is not common in the absence of infibulation. Then he restored the infibulation after it was torn. It doesn’t make sense otherwise – without infibulation the tearing would have nothing to do with FGM.

  3. says

    I mean, not assuming – that’s how I understand what the BBC said. “The court heard that during labour, her FGM stitches were torn” – that’s infibulation. FGM stitches=infibulation.

  4. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    This is probably an area where we have to leave it to the courts and prosecutors and assume they are doing the right thing. We don’t have enough information to know whether the actions of the medics were reasonable or not.

  5. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    Sorry, this is probably an incident… Obviously much easier to make statements that are general.

    UK law does not allow much reporting on cases that are before the courts. So we probably have to wait till after the trial is over.

  6. Maureen Brian says

    The woman had, apparently, been mutilated at age 6 when she was in Somalia. The medic on trial had, it seems, opened up the infibulation to permit the birth.

    What comes next is emerging in court. Basically he sewed her up again, was challenged by a midwife, said he had no idea that would be illegal ……. Who Mr Mohamed is, what he was doing there, whether the woman gave informed consent, these all remain to be seen.

    The Whittington Hospital is at Archway – Ophelia will know it – and at Guy’s Hospital less than 7 miles away there is a clinic offering women who have had FGM reconstructive surgery and other support. Clearly, either word does not carry well in London or someone is trying to cover his tracks.

  7. John Morales says

    Maureen, thanks for the informative link.

    From the article (I’ve hyperlinked the reference):

    She said the woman, who is known as AB to protect her identity, had been subjected to type 3 female genital mutilation aged six in Somalia.

    I can’t see how one can argue the case has no merit, absent further information relating to consent — any reference to which is conspicuously absent.

  8. RJW says

    Yes, I’m also curious as to who the hell ‘Mr Mohammed’ is and why his opinion mattered, the article appears as if it has been clumsily edited, perhaps cultural sensitivities are involved.

  9. Anne Fenwick says

    @8 – Ah yes, that’s extremely clear now, thanks Maureen, including the difference between what he did and what he should have done.

  10. Maureen Brian says


    Would you care to be specific – very specific – about what you think is amiss with the Guardian piece?

    It is a news item. In the online version of the paper news stories are updated as more information comes in, perhaps from an agency or a reporter at the court. They may even be written up and added by different people.

    Even if that sometimes make the telling a little disjointed, it does not require some dastardly global conspiracy to explain it nor that Alan Rushbridger suddenly got a fit of the vapours – look at the man’s record and what he has published, sometimes under great pressure not to!

  11. says

    Ah the Whittington – I didn’t notice that when I posted. I do indeed know it, I’ve walked past it a thousand times on the way up or down Highgate Hill.

  12. RJW says

    @13 Maureen Brian,

    Please note, I used the words “appears” and “perhaps”, there were no assertions in regard to global conspiracies.
    “They may even be written up and added to by different people” Jeeeez! That’s really an explanation, not a defence. Do media organisations still employ sub-editors? Journalists still have an obligation to provide coherent and informative reports, particularly in ‘quality’ publications.

  13. Maureen Brian says

    That’s life, RJW.

    You gain instant access to most of the wold’s media outlets, with instantaneous if rather basic translation, and much, much more. You lose some – only some – of the stylistic polish of the Observer, when the “news” was a week old.

    As someone brought up on Addison and Steele, I can live with that. Can’t you?

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