Mother jailed in Brisbane for arranging daughters' genital mutilation in Africa

| 21.03,19. 05:09 PM |

Mother jailed in Brisbane for arranging daughters' genital mutilation in Africa

Photo: The guilty woman cannot be identified for legal reasons. (ABC News: Melanie Vujkovic)

A woman who took her two young daughters to Africa for female genital mutilation has been sentenced to four years in prison, becoming the first person in Queensland to be jailed for the crime.

The District Court in Brisbane heard the girls — aged 10 and 13 — had no prior warning they would undergo the procedure after travelling to Somalia with their mother in April 2015.

Last month, a jury found the woman — who cannot be named for legal reasons — guilty of two counts of removing a child from the state for female genital mutilation (FGM).

She will have to serve eight months before the four-year prison term is suspended.

In sentencing, Judge Leanne Clare said FGM involved a "particular type of violence — not born of anger or aggression, but a commitment to tradition".

She said the woman took steps to avoid the reach of Queensland law.

"She deliberately took the girls from a country that would protect them," Judge Clare said.

"She made that journey with the intention of the mutilation.

"A mother who subjects her daughters to that treatment seriously betrays her position of trust."

The court heard the girls were staying at their grandmother's house in Somalia when "arrangements were made for someone" to perform the procedures on them.

Crown prosecutor Dejana Kovac said it left the girls bleeding for a day and in pain for up to three days.

"[One of the girls said] her mother was present. She wasn't sedated, was fully awake and felt pain," she said.

The maximum penalty for female genital mutilation charges in Queensland is 14 years in jail.

'Psychological consequences' likely for girls

Ms Kovac said in 2008 the woman, who underwent a childhood procedure herself, told a child safety officer she was aware FGM was illegal in Australia and did not plan to send her daughters to Africa to have it carried out.

Medical evidence suggested there was no permanent scarring to the girls, but ongoing "psychological consequences" were likely, Ms Kovac told the court.

Defence barrister Patrick Wilson said his client, who is undergoing chemotherapy, was supported by her children.

"[They] stand by her," he said.

Judge Clare confirmed it would be the first such sentence in Queensland, and said only two other cases had come before Australian courts, both in New South Wales.

According to the World Health Organisation, FGM involves a "partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to female genital organs ... for non-medical reasons".

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, released in February, said the United Nations estimated at least 200 million girls and women had undergone the procedure, with 53,000 of them thought to live in Australia.


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